Yellow Fever Testing Partners With Preventive Vaccines

Africa yellow fever belt includes South Sudan
young children in lab coats waiting to be tested
South Sudan (Vax Before Travel)

A team of technical officers in the National Public Health Laboratory has been building extra capacity in South Sudan to control yellow fever outbreaks, reported the WHO Africa.

Strengthening national capacities for case detection, investigation, and testing is critical for effective yellow fever control.

This effort is essential since South Sudan lies in the yellow fever belt and has reported 187 cases, including 27 deaths in three separate outbreaks in 2003, 2018, and 2020.

A WHO-supported evaluation in 2017 showed that out of the ten core laboratory tests countries are expected to perform, South Sudan was only able to perform tests for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, measles, and cholera.

“The strengthening of national yellow fever laboratory testing capacities will facilitate rapid confirmation and response to new outbreaks as required under the international health regulations (IHR (2005)”, commented Dr. John Rumunu, the Ministry of Health Director-General Preventive Health Services.

Therefore, the South Sudan National Action Plan for Health Security includes laboratory capacity expansion as a core intervention.

The current efforts to enhance yellow fever testing capacities are aligned with national priorities for health security that have recently seen the country acquire additional laboratory testing capacities for Ebola, Marburg, influenza, and COVID-19.

The WHO global yellow fever update showed that yellow fever transmission increased in 2020, with seven additional countries reporting yellow fever confirmed cases, the highest since 2009. 

These trends highlight the growing gaps in population immunity and the urgent need to strengthen the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE)  strategy in high-risk countries like South Sudan.

Dr. Fabian Ndenzako, the South Sudan WHO Country Representative, acknowledged the EYE partners for their continued support towards strengthening national capacities to control and eliminate yellow fever. 

“Through the EYE partnership, the WHO will continue supporting the Government of South Sudan to contain outbreaks rapidly, prevent international yellow fever spread, and ensure at-risk populations are protected from yellow fever through vaccination,” added Dr. Ndenzako.  

The EYE strategy continues to be a critical global coordination mechanism for optimizing yellow fever control. The strategy’s objectives entail protecting at-risk populations through vaccination, preventing international spread, and rapidly containing outbreaks.

As yellow fever high-risk countries work towards improved yellow fever control guided by the EYE strategy, the risk of outbreaks remains high. 

Therefore, governments are advised to accelerate and optimize the implementation of the EYE strategy priorities, leveraging capacities in existing systems like the integrated disease surveillance and response (IDSR) to strengthen surveillance and response as well as strengthening coordination with national programs for routine immunization for other vaccine-preventable diseases. 

The IDSR strategy supports case-based surveillance, testing, and response to suspect and confirmed yellow fever cases.

Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne acute viral hemorrhagic disease and has an incubation period of 3-6 days following infection. The infection can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms of yellow fever include fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal and muscle pains. 

More severe symptoms include hepatitis and hemorrhagic fever.

Vaccination is the primary means for preventing and controlling yellow fever. 

A single dose of WHO approved yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained immunity and life-long protection against yellow fever disease.

There are two widely used and available yellow fever vaccines, listed on this webpage.  

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