If you’re like me, you’ve probably been listening to a lot of podcasts over this past year while stuck at home or in quarantine. While my typical podcast selection centers around true crime or comedy, I do occasionally like to branch out into research or medical concepts. Recently, I stumbled across a short podcast episode from microbiologist Robert Herriman on Outbreak News Today. The episode, entitled “Nigeria Yellow Fever Outbreak,” discusses the current yellow fever crisis currently present in 8 Nigerian states. During the episode, Herriman talks about the specific impact on five of these states: Delta, Enugu, Benue, Ebonyi, and Bauchi. This week, I will unpack some of the most important insights from this episode.
In this podcast episode, Herriman opens up the episode by discussing how a suspected outbreak of yellow fever began in Nigeria in late October or early November, 2020. Initially, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) put out an alert regarding the outbreak in the Nigerian states of Delta and Enugu. By November 6, 4 samples sourced from these two states tested positive for yellow fever. Since then, the outbreak has spread to around 8 separate states.
When the yellow fever was initially reported, patients submitted symptoms of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fatigue, and vomiting, sometimes with blood. The NDCD is working with epidemiologists, state governments, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat this spread. In addition to yellow fever, Herriman notes that:
Nigeria is also facing concurrent outbreaks with various pathogens. One other outbreak with similar symptoms is Lassa fever.
Herriman also discusses the impact of COVID-19, the current global viral pandemic, and diagnosing and treating yellow fever. Because of the mass shutdowns, travel restrictions, and reduced access to healthcare, Nigerians are struggling to achieve treatment. Additionally, while a single vaccination:
is enough to confer sustained lifelong protection against yellow fever,
the roadblocks put into place from COVID-19 have prevented mass vaccination campaigns across Nigeria. However, the NCDC is currently attempting to reactively respond to clusters of death related to yellow fever through vaccination campaigns in Enugu, Bauchi, Benue, and Delta.
Additional podcast insights include:
- Some of the affected states are in close proximity to Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria with 15M inhabitants. The spread of yellow fever must be monitored, as it can present an immense threat to global health and security if the spread is uncontrolled.
- Nigeria has over 1500 suspected cases, with 46 confirmed cases. 6 deaths are associated with these outbreaks.
- While the Aedes aegypti mosquito mostly transmits yellow fever, it can also be spread by other types of mosquitos. These vectors typically breed around houses, or in forests and jungles.
- There are three types of transmission cycles. The first is sylvatic, in which monkeys bitten by wild mosquitos pass the virus along to other monkeys; while it can be transmitted to humans, it is rare with this type of transmission. Next, intermediate occurs when mosquitos infect both monkeys and humans. This is the most common type of transmission. Finally, urban transmission occurs when infected individuals introduce the virus to others in heavily populated urban areas.
Overall, yellow fever is a viral, mosquito-borne illness; its name is derived from the fact that many patients experience jaundice. Typically, yellow fever is most prevalent in tropical areas, especially those within Central America and Africa. An estimated 30,000 fatalities result from this disease each year. While some infected individuals will show no symptoms, those who do will usually see symptom onset within 6 days. Symptoms generally last for around 3-4 days. These include:
- Muscle, back, and abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite loss
- Dark urine
- Bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth, or stomach
For those who develop a more severe infection, this disease can be fatal within 7-10 days of contracting the virus. Learn more.