Yellow Fever mosquito?.jpg
Photograph: Photo by John Tann, used under CC BY

The World Health Organization (WHO) will launch one of the largest emergency vaccination campaigns in Africa this week, to fight a yellow fever outbreak in Angola and Congo that has already killed more than 400 people.

Thousands had been infected with the disease since the start of the outbreak in Angola in December, the WHO said Tuesday.

The WHO plans to vaccinate more than 14 million people in more than 8,000 locations.

Because the outbreak already found its way to dense, urban areas and hard-to-reach border regions, the implementation of the immunization campaign would be “especially complex,” according to the WHO.

Congo’s border with Angola, which spans more than 2,600 kilometres, as well as Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, were considered high risk areas for yellow fever, the WHO warned.

Kinshasa has more than 10 million people, with only 2 million already vaccinated against the disease.

Aid organization Save the Children, which is also launching a yellow fever vaccination campaign in Kinshasa, described the epidemic as the largest in the region in three decades.

"There is no known cure for yellow fever, and it could go global," said Heather Kerr from Save the Children.

The goal was to vaccinate hundreds of people each day to end transmission before the beginning of the rainy season in September, said WHO coordinator for the Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit William Perea.

The haemorrhagic fever is spread by mosquitoes. Its final stages can cause bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose, organ failure and jaundice, a yellowing of skin and eyes, which originally gave the disease its name.

Roughly 17.3 million syringes and 41,000 health workers and volunteers are needed for the campaign, while more than 500 vehicles will be used to transport the teams and supplies, according to the WHO.

The Congolese government last month announced the need for a vaccination campaign targeting about 12 million people in Kinshasa province and two other provinces located near Angola, which will form part of the WHO scheme.

Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi told dpa he was appealing to all citizens to get vaccinated and alert health authorities to new cases.

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