WHO fights Angola yellow fever outbreak, global vaccine shortage

Aedes albopictus mosquito, which transmits Zika virus, Chikungunya virus, dengue fever and yellow fever

While much of the world is focused on the explosive Zika outbreak, a similar virus is spreading in Angola with lethal consequences.

The World Health Organization reports that nearly 200 people have died and 490 have been infected from a yellow fever outbreak. What's worse, the agency is also combating a global vaccine shortage with an emergency stockpile "completely depleted." Now, the agency says it's working with yellow fever vaccine manufacturers to divert shipments from national routine immunization programs until emergency stocks can be replenished.

According to the WHO's prequalified vaccine listing, makers of yellow fever vaccines are Sanofi Pasteur, Institut Pasteur Foundation in Dakar, Brazil's Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz and a Russian state-owned manufacturer.

Yellow fever, spread by infected mosquitoes including the same species that spreads Zika and dengue fever, can kill at least half of severely affected patients who don't receive treatment within 10 to 14 days. The virus infects about 200,000 people annually, leaving about 30,000 dead.

As of the end of March, the WHO and its partners had vaccinated 5.7 million people in Luanda against yellow fever, but an additional 1.5 million doses are needed in that province alone, the agency said. The outbreak has spread to 6 of Angola's 18 provinces.

The WHO has recommended prioritizing vaccination of high-risk individuals with the outbreak threatening other parts of Angola and travelers potentially spreading yellow fever in other parts of Africa and China.

In February, with supplies dwindling, the Institute Pasteur Foundation in Dakar said it would build a €23 million ($25.7 million) yellow fever vaccine plant in Dakar, though it isn't expected to be ready until 2019.

- here's the WHO release