What about Yellow Fever?
If you are travelling to Africa, the Caribbean, Central or South America, you should be aware of the risk of yellow fever virus transmission and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from infection.
What is Yellow Fever?
Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes, and can lead to serious illness and even death. It is called ‘yellow fever’ because in serious cases, the skin turns yellow in color. This condition is known as ‘jaundice’.
Symptoms of yellow fever may take 3 to 6 days to appear. Some infections can be mild but most lead to serious illness characterised by two stages. In the first stage fever, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, headache and weakness occur. About 15 to 25 per cent of those with yellow fever progress to the second stage also known as the ‘toxic’ stage, of which half die within 10 to 14 days after onset of illness. Visible bleeding, jaundice, kidney and liver failure can occur during the second stage.
Where does Yellow Fever come from?
Yellow fever is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes from, principally, Aedes and Haemagogus mosquito species. The disease occurs in two forms – urban and sylvatic (jungle) yellow fever. Both forms are caused by the same virus.
In tropical rainforests, yellow fever occurs in monkeys that are infected by mosquitoes. The yellow fever virus is passed onto other mosquitoes that feed on infected monkeys. These infected mosquitoes bite humans that enter the forest, resulting in some cases of yellow fever. This form of the disease is known as ‘sylvatic’ or ‘jungle’ yellow fever.
In some parts of Africa mosquitoes that breed around households, can infect humans. Urban yellow fever happens when infected people introduce the virus into areas with high human populations. Mosquitoes carry the virus from person to person.
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, however medicines can be used to relieve the symptoms and may improve the outcome for seriously ill patients.
How can travelers protect against yellow fever?
By getting vaccinated: Yellow fever is preventable. The vaccine is safe and almost 100 percent effective. With few exceptions, vaccination is recommended for all travelers to countries or areas where there is a risk of yellow fever transmission.
By avoiding mosquitoes: The mosquitoes that transmit yellow fever are usually active during the day. All people who travel to or live in yellow fever endemic countries are advised to avoid mosquitoes. This can be done by taking the following measures:
- Wear a mosquito repellent containing DEET or Picaridin
- Wear light coloured, long-sleeved clothes when you’re outdoors
- Avoid wearing perfume or cologne (some of these can attract mosquitoes)
- Prevent mosquitoes entering your accommodation
- Use a mosquito net at night-time (if mosquitoes are likely to be present)
Do I need a yellow fever vaccination?
It is strongly recommended that all travelers be vaccinated for yellow fever if travelling to or from a yellow fever declared country. Your local GP or Travel Doctor will be able to advise you on Yellow Fever, and/or administer the vaccination.