Health Encyclopedia

Yellow Fever

What is yellow fever?

Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Although it is a rare disease, many countries require that visitors have the yellow fever vaccination prior to entering the country.

Generally, yellow fever only occurs in certain areas of Africa and South America. In South America (especially Brazil), infections occur sporadically, and usually among forestry and agricultural workers. In Africa, infections occur primarily in the tropical areas of western and central Africa, but also in urban locations as well as jungle regions.

Who is at risk for contracting yellow fever?

Yellow fever can affect both sexes, and all ages and races.

How is yellow fever spread?

A certain type of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is most often responsible for transmitting the virus.

What are the symptoms of yellow fever?

The following are the most common symptoms of yellow fever. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Symptoms may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms (for example, fever, headache, vomiting, and backache)

  • Slow and weak pulse

  • Bleeding of the gums

  • Bloody urine

  • Jaundice

Symptoms usually occur within three to six days after exposure. The symptoms of yellow fever may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a doctor for diagnosis.

How can yellow fever be prevented?

There is a vaccine available for yellow fever. Because transmission of yellow fever no longer occurs within the United States, it is important for travelers to talk with their health care providers about the need to be immunized prior to visiting areas where yellow fever still exists.

It is believed that people who have had yellow fever develop lifelong immunity.

What is the treatment for yellow fever?

Specific treatment for yellow fever will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your overall health and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment is aimed at controlling the symptoms, and includes rest, fluids, and use of medicines to help relieve fever and aching. Certain medications should be avoided, such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which may increase the risk for bleeding. People with yellow fever should be protected from further mosquito exposure (for example, they should stay indoors or under a mosquito net) during the first few days of illness, so they do not contribute to the disease transmission cycle.



Medical Reviewers:

  • Marcellin, Lindsey, MD
  • Petersen, Sheralee, MPAS, PA-C