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Liberia: Yellow Fever Immunization Scheme Begins

UN Agencies Begin Mass Immunization Scheme Against Yellow Fever In Liberia

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will begin a mass immunization campaign later this week to combat an outbreak of yellow fever in Liberia.

WHO's Dr. Luzitu Simao said today from Monrovia, the Liberian capital, that the first immunization teams should start work on Thursday as part of a joint campaign with Liberia's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

WHO fears an epidemic is imminent in Liberia, which is trying to recover from 14 years of civil war and lies in West Africa's yellow fever belt. The expected arrival of the annual rainy season in April means the disease may soon find it even easier to flourish.

There have been three confirmed cases of yellow fever so far, with another 11 suspected cases undergoing laboratory analysis in Abidjan in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire. The patients in the three confirmed cases have died.

"Conditions are ripe here for an epidemic," Dr. Simao said. "The last 14 years of civil war have literally destroyed Liberia's health infrastructure and yellow fever is an extremely deadly disease. Even among hospitalized patients, the mortality rate may reach up to 50 per cent."

http://www.unicef.org/index.html UNICEF and http://www.who.int/en/ WHO have estimated that the immunization scheme will cost $1.3 million and say less than 80,000 vaccination doses are currently available in Liberia, well below their target of 722,000.

Yellow fever is a viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by mosquitoes, either from monkey to human or from human to human. There have been at least six outbreaks in Liberia between 1995 and 2002.

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