Yellow fever is a viral disease. Most people recover. Some have serious or life-threatening illness.
An infected mosquito passes the virus through a bite on the skin.
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Things that may raise the risk are:
- Living in or going to places where yellow fever is common
- Not getting a yellow fever vaccine, or
- Not using mosquito protection
Symptoms appear within a week after a mosquito bite. The acute phase lasts 3 to 4 days. Then symptoms go away. At the end of the acute phase, some people move to the toxic phase.
Some may not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- High fever
- Belly pain
- Bleeding from the gums, nose, eyes, or stomach
- Vomit that appears black—caused by bleeding
- Yellowing of the skin—jaundice
- Confusion, seizure, or coma
The doctor will ask about symptoms, health, and travel history. A physical exam will be done. Yellow fever can be confirmed by blood tests.
The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. It may include:
- Fluids by mouth or IV to prevent dehydration
- Medicines to lower fever and pain
- Dialysis (toxic phase) to help kidneys filter waste
- Transfusion (toxic phase) to replace blood lost through bleeding
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Yellow fever can be prevented with a vaccine.
The risk can be reduced by covering up the skin, wearing bug spray with DEET, and using screens.
People who have had yellow fever will not get it again.
- Collaborative group for studies on yellow fever vaccines. Duration of immunity in recipients of two doses of 17DD yellow fever vaccine. Vaccine. 2019 Aug 14;37(35):5129-5135.
- Yellow fever. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/maps/index.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.
- Yellow fever. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/yellow-fever. Accessed January 29, 2021.
- Yellow fever VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/yf.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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