The surge in air travel and the adaptive distribution of mosquitoes as a result of urbanization and climate change have accelerated the spread of chikungunya and Zika viruses over the past few years. Yellow fever could similarly spread to the Asia-Pacific region, previously considered off-limits to the virus (see Nature 532, 155–156; 2016). Scientists and public-health officials must take swift pre-emptive action, given that the area has an unvaccinated population of more than two billion people and a limited infrastructure for mounting a response (see go.nature.com/2dtbo6o).
A priority is to collect evidence on the region’s mosquito populations, which include Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus and Aedes scutellaris. Scientists must study the mosquitoes’ competence as vectors for the yellow fever virus, as well as their distribution, biology and susceptibility to insecticides.
Effective surveillance will be crucial. Diagnostic capacity must be improved to distinguish the yellow fever virus from the many other flaviviruses that circulate in Asia. Renewed research into vaccines is also warranted to support a coordinated global response to future outbreaks.
Nature 554, 31 (2018)