A fatal outbreak of yellow fever in Congo may spread to Europe and the Americas without the help of a huge, newly launched emergency vaccination campaign, health officials said Wednesday.
Thousands of suspected cases have surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 500 there have already died, according to Save the Children, a non-governmental organization that provides health and other relief to kids in developing countries.
The outbreak is the biggest reported in more than 30 years.
There is no known cure for the mosquito-spread virus, which is easily prevented with vaccines.
Once infected, people often fall ill with fever and muscle pain, but many recover after several days. The more toxic phase includes possible bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose, organ failure and jaundice.
In an effort to combat the epidemic, aid groups are targeting 10.5 million people over the next 10 days.
They are focusing on Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, and on the border with Angola, where the outbreak began.
But vaccine supplies are limited.