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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2014 May;108(5):252-7. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/tru043.

Yellow fever, Asia and the East African slave trade.

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King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Erratum in

  • Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2014 Aug;108(8):519.


Yellow fever is endemic in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South America, yet its principal vectors--species of mosquito of the genus Aedes--are found throughout tropical and subtropical latitudes. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that yellow fever originated in Africa and that its spread to the New World coincided with the slave trade, but why yellow fever has never appeared in Asia remains a mystery. None of several previously proposed explanations for its absence there is considered satisfactory. We contrast the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and trade across the Sahara and to the Arabian Peninsula and Mesopotamia, with that to Far East and Southeast Asian ports before abolition of the African slave trade, and before the scientific community understood the transmission vector of yellow fever and the viral life cycle, and the need for shipboard mosquito control. We propose that these differences in slave trading had a primary role in the avoidance of yellow fever transmission into Asia in the centuries before the 20(th) century. The relatively small volume of the Black African slave trade between Africa and East and Southeast Asia has heretofore been largely ignored. Although focal epidemics may have occurred, the volume was insufficient to reach the threshold for endemicity.


Aedes; Americas; Arbovirus; Asia; Flavivirus; Slave trade; Yellow fever

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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