The EU is to send its new European Medical Corps on its first ever mission – to help tackle the outbreak of yellow fever in the West African state of Angola.
Since the first case was reported in the capital, Luanda, in December 2015, 260 have died, amid some 2,000 reported cases.
The European Medical Corps (EMC) was founded in February this year to deal with medical emergencies in the wake of the ebola crisis in West Africa, and this will be its first deployment.
Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, said, “We have learned the lessons from the Ebola crisis.
“Today, we are deploying a first team of public health experts as part of the European Medical Corps. They will complement the efforts of the Angolan government and work closely with the World Health Organisation and other international partners on the ground to deal with the yellow fever outbreak. Together we can understand it better and stop it faster,” he said.
The Angola yellow fever team consists of experts from Germany, Portugal and Belgium.
According to DG ECHO, the two-week mission will see the EMC team investigate the epidemiological characteristics of the outbreak, asses the risk of it spreading further, including outside Angola, look at the implications for European travellers in Angola and returning to the EU, and help local doctors.
Some of Angola’s cases are believed to have spread to China, Kenya, DR Congo and Mauritania.
Yellow fever strikes with initial symptoms of back ache, muscle pain, fever, headache, shivering and is transmitted by mosquitos. It is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease, which has no cure, although there is a vaccination.
Angola has suffered previous outbreaks in 1971 and 1988, whilst much of sub-Saharan Africa suggests yellow fever vaccinations for visitors.
So far around 6 million Angolans have been vaccinated, according to the World Health Organisation, out of a population of 24 million.
The EMC was set up in the wake of the west Africa ebola crisis, which saw some 11,000 die of the disease. It has ready-to-deploy teams from nine EU member states – Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden. It is part of the European Emergency Response Capacity, under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
American doctors, writing in the Journal of American Medical Association, have warned it could become a global crisis due to a lack of vaccines, which take six months to produce.