Forgotten active epidemics


The World Health Organisation pandemic declaration for the coronavirus disease is saturating headlines across the world. 

The majority of cases are concentrated in China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France and Spain, but the WHO say they are: "deeply concerned, both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction".

The severity level of a pandemic cannot be underestimated but, there are a number of other viral outbreaks around the world that are being overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis.

A number of classified epidemic outbreaks have emerged or re-emerged this year. These outbreaks have not been formed from a new virus like SARS-CoV-2, but from 'old acquaintances' that scientific efforts are currently unable to eradicate. 

An epidemic occurs when an infectious disease spreads quickly and the number of cases of a disease  is above what is normally expected in that population in that area. Whereas a pandemic is a disease that is spreading in multiple countries around the world at the same time.

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo

On 23 January 2020, 82 confirmed cases were reported in 13 areas in six health zones: Mabalako, Beni, Biena, Butembo, Katwa and Musienene. As of 18 February, a total of 3433 cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) had been reported, including 3310 confirmed and 123 probable cases, of which 2253 had died. 

Fatality rate of this epidemic outbreak stands at 66% - compared with 2% for coronavirus.

Dengue Fever outbreak on Easter Island, Chile

Between January 27 and February 6, 2020, three cases of indigenous dengue fever were confirmed on Easter Island. Infected patients included women between the ages of 27 and 49. 

Scientists analysed the structure of this virus and it was identified as serotype 2 (DENV 2). This is the first time that a serotype other than DENV 1 has been detected in this area since 2009.

Dengue is a disease that affects infants, young children and adults. Symptoms range from mild to high fever, headache, eye, muscle and joint pain, and a rash. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The dense population of mosquitoes on Easter Island could potentially contribute to the spread of the disease throughout the island.

Yellow fever in Uganda

On 23 January 2020, the Ministry of Health for the Republic of Uganda declared an outbreak of yellow fever. Eight cases were detected in Buliisa, Maracha and Moyo districts. Four of the people infected died.

Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) virus transmitted by infected mosquitoes that can spread rapidly. VHFs have common features: they affect many organs, they damage the blood vessels, and they affect the body's ability to regulate itself.

According to the WHO, vaccination is the main method of preventing and controlling yellow fever, and is understood to provide lifelong immunity. 

Measles in the Central African Republic

An outbreak of measles began in the Central African Republic in late 2019. The latest available data, as of 16 February 2020, show that a total of 7626 suspected cases have been reported, 83 of them fatal. Children make up the majority of cases with  72% diagnosed as under 5 years old and 18% between the ages of five and ten.

WHO attributes the current outbreak of measles to a reduction in routine vaccinations over the last five years. Less than 60 percent of infants were vaccinated at the classified appropriate age of nine months. 

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