Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Paraguay yellow fever panic snarls traffic

THOUSANDS BLOCK HIGHWAY Paraguay urgently needs 600,000 doses of vaccine, but it only has 100,000 in stock and promises of aid are not expected to help much


Some 4,000 people demanding vaccinations against yellow fever blockaded a highway near the capital on Wednesday, a week after the disease made its first appearance in humans in Paraguay in 34 years.

The blockade snarled traffic for hours on a major route near Asuncion before authorities negotiated a peaceful end to the demonstration, police officer Francisco Monges said. There were no reports of violence.

The demonstrators complained the government had been caught short of doses and demanded a major vaccination campaign against the mosquito-borne disease.

Hundreds of people lined up this week at hospitals around Paraguay, demanding vaccines that were unavailable.

Last week, Paraguayan health officials announced five cases of yellow fever that originated in a remote farm community, but no deaths.

The outbreak prompted South America's second-poorest country to urgently request 600,000 doses of vaccine from international health authorities.

Paraguay only has 100,000 vaccinations in stock. Brazil has pledged 50,000 more doses and Peru has promised to send an unspecified amount of vaccine -- but the total is still a fraction of what Paraguay says it needs.

Paraguayan authorities had no immediate response to calls for a wider vaccination campaign. They initially said they were concentrating vaccination efforts on residents of the affected community of San Pedro, about 400km from the border with Brazil.

The last reported case of yellow fever in Paraguay was in 1974.

In neighboring Brazil, the Health Ministry reported that the death toll this year from yellow fever rose to 15. Most of the victims died after visiting the midwestern farming state of Goias, it said.

The WHO says an estimated 30,000 people worldwide die annually from the disease. Symptoms can include fever, vomiting, jaundice and bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes and stomach.

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