By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The increasing number of registered cases and deaths related to yellow fever in Brazil have led to health officials to step up the vaccination campaigns and the World Health Organization to warn international travelers to be cautious when travelling to Brazil’s most populous state, São Paulo.

Brazil, Brasilia,Brazilian health officials at Tuesday's press conference on yellow fever vaccination,
Brazilian health officials at Tuesday’s press conference on yellow fever vaccination, photo by Rodrigo Nunes/Ministerio da Saude.

“Considering the increased level of yellow fever virus activity observed across the state of São Paulo, the WHO Secretariat has determined that the entire state of São Paulo should be considered at risk for yellow fever transmission,” read an alert issued by the WHO on Tuesday, January 17th.

According to the health agency, visitors who have plans to travel to the state and have not been immunized against the virus should be vaccinated against yellow fever ten days prior to their trip, adopt measures to avoid mosquito bites while in Brazil, be aware of the symptoms of the virus and seek immediate medical health if they present any sign of the virus.

Although Brazilian health officials have been stating that the current number of cases does not represent an outbreak of the disease, interim Health Minister Antônio Nardi stressed the importance of vaccination of the population living in areas deemed at risk.

“Areas determined for vaccination remain the same and prevention measures such as vaccination intensification and dose fractionation will also continue to be carried out and updated as needed. In addition, people who travel to these places also need to be vaccinated,” Nardi told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.

Between now and March of this year, 77 municipalities in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia will conduct a vaccination campaign with both fractioned and standard doses of the vaccine.

Due to fears that not enough vaccines would be available to immunize all those in risk areas, the government decided to divide the standard dose, which immunizes a person for life against the virus, into four or five dose, which renders protection against the virus for eight years.

According to the ministry, the goal is to immunize a total of 21.7 million people in these municipalities, 16.5 million with the fractional dose and another 5.2 million with the standard dose.

Brazil, Rio de Janeiro,Residents of Rio line up for yellow fever vaccines
Residents of Rio line up for yellow fever vaccines, photo by Tania Rego/Agência Brasil.

Data from the Health Ministry shows that since July 2017 there have been 470 suspected cases of yellow fever registered in the country, with twenty deaths confirmed as being due to the virus.

In Rio de Janeiro State Secretary, Luiz Antônio Teixeira Júnior, made an appeal for the population to visit health clinics to vaccinate against yellow fever. The state has confirmed three deaths this year due to the disease.

“We urge the population to come and get the vaccine to be protected throughout our state,” said the secretary during a presentation at UERJ (Rio de Janeiro State University).

Unlike the other fifteen municipalities across the state scheduled for the vaccination campaign, government officials in the mountainside city of Petrópolis stated on Tuesday they will continue to vaccinate city residents with the standard dose recommended by the WHO.

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