Yellow fever fears grip Malawi


There are fears that Malawi risks being hit by a yellow fever outbreak, following its eruption in East, West and recently Angola in Southern Africa.

The World Health Organistion (WHO) describes the disease as an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients.

Media reports indicate that the WHO has warned that the current increase in yellow fever outbreak in Angola poses a “threat to the entire world”.


Nearly 2,000 people are thought to be suffering from yellow fever in Angola.

According to WHO, thousands of people are suspected to have been infected with the disease while 238 have died of this mosquito-borne illness.

However, Ministry of Health says there is no need for Malawi to panic as the country is outside the yellow fever belt.


“The type of mosquito that causes the disease is not available in Malawi which means Malawians don’t have the risk of yellow fever. I can safely say we are at zero risk except for those that travel to countries that have the disease,” said the ministry’s spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe.

He disclosed that government does not procure much of yellow fever vaccines so one can only get it from its four central hospitals. It is not available at district and health centres but it is also available at private hospitals.

Recent investigations by our sister paper, Malawi News established that most Malawians who are travelling to countries that are strict with yellow fever vaccination certificates just buy the certificate from medical practitioners at prices ranging from K3,500 to K5,000.

While admitting that the ministry is aware of this trend, Chikumbe said, “The public should refrain from doing this as this is just risking their own lives.”

The WHO says vaccination is the most important preventive measure against yellow fever.

“A single dose of yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained immunity and life-long protection against yellow fever disease and a booster dose of yellow fever vaccine is not needed. The vaccine provides effective immunity within 30 days for 99 percentages of persons vaccinated,” reads information from WHO website.

Once contracted, the yellow fever virus incubates in the body for three to six days, followed by infection that can occur in one or two phases. The first, “acute”, phase usually causes fever, muscle pain with prominent backache, headache, shivers, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting, says the WHO.

It further says 15 percent of patients enter a second, more toxic phase within 24 hours of the initial remission.

“High fever returns and several body systems are affected. The patient rapidly develops jaundice and complains of abdominal pain with vomiting. Bleeding can occur from the mouth, nose, eyes or stomach.

“Once this happens, blood appears in the vomit and faeces. Kidney function deteriorates. Half of the patients who enter the toxic phase die within 10 to 14 days, the rest recover without significant organ damage,” explains the WHO.

Executive Director for Health and Rights Education Programme, Maziko Matemba said Ministry of Health should not relax considering that there are lots of people who are travelling without yellow fever vaccination.

“If the vaccination is only available at central hospitals does it mean that people who want to travel abroad should go all the way to get the vaccination? Much as I strongly condemn this habit of vaccination cheating, I have noted that it’s the frustrations people get at public hospitals that force them to just buy the certificate,” he said.

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