On her Germination blog at National Geographic, Maryn McKenna writes: Africa’s Yellow Fever Outbreak is a Glimpse of Our Connected Future. Excerpt from a must-read:
Zika virus has been earning all the headlines, because it is already affecting Americans—including 300 pregnant women, according to a new CDC estimate—and is expected to move into U.S. mosquitoes as the summer bug season starts.
But outside the United States, another mosquito-borne disease is attracting the world’s attention, and it may predict more than Zika does about how epidemics will move around the world in the future. The disease is yellow fever, the epicenter of the outbreak is Angola, and the force that could push it around the globe is Chinese investment in the developing world.
The Angolan outbreak began in December and is large: more than 2,400 cases and 298 deaths, according to the latest report from the World Health Organization. It was originally centered on the capital, Luanda, and has spread through the western half of the country. It has also hopped borders: There are 42 cases in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo and two cases in Kenya (along with an an unrelated outbreak in Uganda, between Kenya and the DRC).
But what has some researchers unusually alarmed is that there are 11 cases in China: workers or families who returned from Angola into an area where yellow fever does not now exist—but the mosquitoes that spread it do.
“Approximately two billion people live in Aedes aegypti-infested countries in Asia,” Sean Wasserman, Paul Anantharajah Tambyah, and Poh Lian Lim, researchers from South Africa and Singapore, say in a paper published online in May in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. “The prospect of a yellow fever introduction into this unvaccinated population poses a major global health threat,” they write.