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Adv Virus Res. 1999;53:5-34.

Impact of yellow fever on the developing world.

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World Health Organization, Africa Region, Harare, Zimbabwe.


Yellow fever (YF) has remained a disease of public health importance since it was first described in the fifteenth century. At different periods in human history, YF has caused untold hardship and indescribable misery among populations in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. It brought economic disaster in its wake, constituting a stumbling block to development. Yellow fever is an arboviral infection with three epidemiological transmission cycles between monkeys, mosquitoes, and humans. It is an acute infectious disease characterized by sudden onset, with two phases of development separated by a short period of remission. The clinical spectrum of YF varies from a very mild, nonspecific, febrile illness to a fulminating, sometimes fatal disease with pathognomonic features. In severe cases, jaundice and bleeding diathesis with hepatorenal involvement are common. The fatality rate of severe YF is 50% or higher. Despite landmark achievements in the understanding of the epidemiology of YF and the availability of a safe, efficacious vaccine, YF remains a major public health problem in both Africa and South America, where annually the disease affects an estimated 200,000 persons, causing an estimated 30,000 deaths. Since the 1980s epidemics of YF in Africa have affected predominantly children under the age of 15 years. The failure to control YF arises from a misapplication of public health strategies and insufficient political commitment by governments in YF endemic areas, especially in Africa, to control the disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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