Yellow fever is a disease carried by female mosquitoes. The species of mosquito that carry yellow fever are native to sub-Saharan Africa and South America, but can also be found in other areas.
Although it may be rare in developed countries, yellow fever is endemic in impoverished areas where people cannot afford to get vaccinated.
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, but vaccination can prevent it.
Yellow fever is caused by specific viruses transmitted by bites from infected mosquitoes.
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Factors that may increase your chances of getting yellow fever include:
- Living, working, or traveling areas with yellow fever
- Failure to take proper precautions, such as vaccination or using mosquito protection
Yellow fever symptoms appear within a week after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Typically, acute phase symptoms will persist for 3-4 days, and then disappear. A small percentage of people progress into the toxic phase. The toxic phase symptoms begin within 24 hours of the end of the acute phase. Recovery from yellow fever provides lifetime immunity from the disease.
Acute phase symptoms may include:
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Toxic phase symptoms may include:
- High fever
- Abdominal pain
- Bleeding from the gums, nose, eyes, and/or stomach
- Vomit that appears black due to blood content
- Low blood pressure
Liver failure, which may lead to
- Kidney failure
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical and travel history. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests will be needed for diagnosis. Antibodies or the virus may be detected in the blood.
Currently, medications or treatments specifically for yellow fever are not available. However, there are treatments that that can be given at a hospital to ease some symptoms of yellow fever.
It is important to keep the body hydrated. Fluids containing electrolytes may be given orally, or may be injected through a vein to prevent dehydration.
Cool water or anti-fever medications may be given to reduce fever.
In toxic phases, dialysis may be needed to help the kidneys filter waste.
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In toxic phase cases, a transfusion may be needed to replace blood cells and clotting agents lost through bleeding.
Fighting yellow fever may cause the immune system to become temporarily weak. A weak immune system cannot guard against bacterial infections as it normally would, so infections occur more easily. Antibiotics may be given to fight bacterial infections if they occur. Antibiotics cannot be given to treat yellow fever because yellow fever is a virus, and viruses do not respond to antibiotics.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent yellow fever. The
yellow fever vaccine
is recommended for those who are traveling to or living in areas where the disease is present. Your doctor will help decide if the vaccine is right for you.
Other ways to reduce your chances of getting yellow fever include:
- Staying in air-conditioned or well-screened areas.
- Wearing long-sleeved clothing and long pants.
- Using bed netting while sleeping.
- Removing or destroying mosquito-breeding areas. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing pools of water, such as the inside of old tires, flower pots, and small puddles.
- Using insect repellents containing DEET on exposed skin.
- Using Permethrin or DEET on clothes and bed nets for extra protection.
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http://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/maps/index.html. Updated December 31, 2011. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Walker KR, Joy TK, et al. Human and environmental factors
affecting Aedes aegypti distribution in an arid urban environment.
J Am Mosq Control Assoc.
Yellow fever. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/index.html. Updated December 13, 2011. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Yellow fever. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 25, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Yellow fever VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/yf.html. Updated June 18, 2013. Accessed June 19, 2014.
Last reviewed May 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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