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World Health Organization warns of "spreading" yellow fever outbreak in Darfur

A yellow fever outbreak has hit Sudan's Darfur region, infecting up to 350 people and killing 107 in the last six weeks, the World Health Organization announced Tuesday. The WHO warns that the disease could spread all over the country.

As of Nov. 11, the WHO said in a statement there were 329 suspected cases including 97 deaths were reported from this outbreak. Central and South Darfur have the most suspected cases.

The number of deaths from the outbreak is steadily rising, and Sudan is working on an emergency vaccination drive. Officials reported last week that 67 people had died in the outbreak.

Yellow fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The majority of those infected have no illness or only mild illness, but those who develop symptoms may experience sudden onset of fever, chills, severe headache, back pain, body aches, fatigue, nausea and vomiting within six days of exposure.

The severe form of disease brings symptoms such as high fever, jaundice, bleeding and eventually shock and failure of multiple organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no medicinal cure for yellow fever. Doctors treat the main symptoms and wait for the viral infection to pass.

The WHO estimates that more than 500 million people in 32 countries in Africa are at risk of yellow fever infection.

As part of the emergency response program, 2.4 million doses of the yellow fever vaccine are scheduled to arrive in the Sudanese capital next week, Dr. Anshu Banerjee of the WHO office in Sudan told The Associated Press by phone on Tuesday.

More than 30 percent of people showing symptoms have died since late September, according to a WHO statement.

Around 70 percent are under 29 years old, according to a statement released Monday by the Sudanese Health Ministry and the WHO.

Banerjee warned that yellow fever cases are "definitely spreading" to new areas of the remote region of Darfur, where Sudan's government has been battling rebel groups since 2003. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and health care services are not available to many residents as a result of the turmoil.

He said that while no yellow fever cases have been found outside Darfur, the WHO is planning a risk assessment in the next two weeks on the assumption that all areas in Sudan may be at risk of infection.

Banerjee said that Darfur's heavy rainy season this year created additional breeding sites for the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

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