CHENNAI/VELLORE: Noted virologist T Jacob John, a retired professor from Christian Medical College and presently a WHO committee member feels that India is likely to face the threat of Yellow Fever as it has crept into China. Yellow Fever is an acute viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes and mostly found in tropical regions of Africa and South America.
He said that on March 13, 2016, China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission confirmed that a 32-year-old man who had returned from Angola to Beijing on March 10 had contracted Yellow Fever with fever for 2 days.
On March 18, Shanghai’s Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission announced that a second person, 46-years-old, who had returned from Angola to Shanghai on March 7 was also confirmed with having contracted Yellow Fever. This was also confirmed by China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on March 17, 2016.
“These cases are the first instances in history of Yellow Fever cases in Asia. Yellow fever used to be confined to the African continent and Latin American countries due to the high population of monkeys and mosquitoes that transmitted the disease to humans,” he said.
India has a conducive ecology for effective transmission of Yellow Fever with monkeys and mosquitoes in abundance relative to the human population. It is critical for Yellow Fever cases to be detected early and measures taken to contain the disease, he further said. Chikungunya came to India in 2001 but it took one year for the country to launch measures to combat it.
“This is an alarm bell for India,” he warned adding, “an infected person could arrive in India and spread the disease. The laboratory network for making a diagnosis is woefully inadequate here.”
“Yellow Fever is difficult to diagnose, especially during the early stages,” John pointed out. “It can be confused with severe malaria, dengue, haemorrhagic fever, leptospirosis, viral hepatitis (especially the fulminating forms of hepatitis B and D), other haemorrhagic fevers (such as the West Nile and Zika viruses) and other diseases, as well as poisoning. Only specific virological tests can detect yellow fever antibodies produced in response to the infection. These tests require highly trained laboratory staff and specialized equipment and materials. There is only supportive treatment but vaccines are available to prevent the spread,” Jacob John pointed out.
Since Aedes Egypti mosquito which is an efficient virus-transmitting vector is widely prevalent in all parts of India, the probable scenario would be an outbreak of disease from mosquito to monkeys, monkeys to man and man to man.