Update on Polio, Ebola and Dengue fever outbreaks

15 November 2018

Polio outbreaks

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious viral disease that affects mainly children under the age of 5 years. In 0,5% of cases (1 in 200), irreversible paralysis develops. This may lead to death when the muscles required for breathing are paralysed. As a result of energetic vaccination campaigns, cases have reduced by 99% since 1988, saving about 16 million patients from paralysis. However, new cases develop from time to time in areas where vaccinations have not reached the entire population.

Currently, there are outbreaks in Somalia, Papua New Guinea, Syria, DRC and Nigeria. Travellers to these areas should ensure that they are fully vaccinated against polio. Adults who have been previously vaccinated should also receive a once-off booster.

Ebola in DRC

The outbreak of Ebola in the North Eastern part of DRC continues to spread. This is a conflict area, making access by healthcare personnel hazardous and difficult. As of 13 November, there are 341 cases, with 215 deaths. The risk to most travellers is low, unless they come into contact with an infected person or the blood or other body fluids of a victim of Ebola, eg at a funeral.

Dengue fever in Senegal

Dengue is a viral infection, caused by the bites of infected mosquitos. In most cases, patients develop fever, headaches, body pains, vomiting and minor bleeding. In severe cases, haemorrhage, shock and death can occur. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment available. Travellers should avoid mosquito bites by covering exposed skin, using nets and insect repellents. (This will also assist in preventing other mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria, Yellow Fever, chikungunya, and Zika infection).