The enigma of yellow fever in East Africa

Rev Med Virol. Sep-Oct 2008;18(5):331-46. doi: 10.1002/rmv.584.


Despite a safe and effective vaccine, there are approximately 200,000 cases, including 30,000 deaths, due to yellow fever virus (YFV) each year, of which 90% are in Africa. The natural history of YFV has been well described, especially in West Africa, but in East Africa yellow fever (YF) remains characterised by unpredictable focal periodicity and a precarious potential for large epidemics. Recent outbreaks of YF in Kenya (1992-1993) and Sudan (2003 and 2005) are important because each of these outbreaks have involved the re-emergence of a YFV genotype (East Africa) that remained undetected for nearly 40 years and was previously unconfirmed in a clinically apparent outbreak. In addition, unlike West Africa and South America, YF has yet to emerge in urban areas of East Africa and be vectored by Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti. This is a significant public health concern in a region where the majority of the population remains unvaccinated. This review describes historical findings, highlights a number of disease indicators, and provides clarification regarding the natural history, recent emergence and future risk of YF in East Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / physiology
  • Aedes / virology
  • Africa, Eastern / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Haplorhini / virology
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / physiology
  • Insect Vectors / virology
  • Monkey Diseases / transmission
  • Monkey Diseases / virology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Yellow Fever / epidemiology
  • Yellow Fever / prevention & control
  • Yellow Fever / transmission
  • Yellow Fever / virology
  • Yellow fever virus* / classification
  • Yellow fever virus* / isolation & purification