UN confirms deadly yellow fever outbreak in Sudan

Nov 22 (AFP)

The UN's health agency on Tuesday confirmed that an epidemic initially attributed to dengue was a yellow fever outbreak which had caused 121 deaths.

"Samples were tested at the US navy medical facility in Cairo, NAMRU-3, and the results show that it is a yellow fever outbreak," World Health Organisation (WHO) spokeswoman Sacha Bootsman told AFP.

As of Sunday, 448 cases had been recorded in the central region of South Kordofan. The deadly outbreak had initially been identified by Sudanese health officials as dengue, another mosquito-borne virus.

Majdi Saleh, who heads the health ministry's epidemics department, told AFP Tuesday that a vaccination campaign targeting two million people would kick off in the coming days.

"With an almost one-third fatality rate and reported cases increasing every day, we may be dealing with a major epidemic," warned Guido Sabatinelli, the WHO representative in Sudan.

The last documented yellow fever outbreak in the Nuba Mountains area was in 1940 and left some 1,500 people dead.

Yellow fever is spread through the bite of the Aedes mosquito and health organisations have been spraying insecticide and removing stagnant water where the mosquitoes breed in a bid to contain the outbreak.

Staff from the Sudanese health ministry, WHO and several non-governmental organisations have been dispatched to the affected areas. UN agencies in Sudan have launched an emergency appeal for some six million dollars in funding.