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Yellow Fever

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • Yellow fever, a mosquito-borne disease caused by the Flavivirus, is a significant health concern in Africa and Latin America, with around 200,000 new cases reported annually.
  • The disease is rare in the U.S., with the last reported case in 2014, and while there is no cure, treatments exist to manage symptoms and strengthen the immune system.
  • A vaccine providing up to a decade of protection is available and recommended for individuals aged nine months to 59 years residing in or traveling to areas with yellow fever.
  • Yellow fever manifests in three phases: initial infection with symptoms like fever and body aches, an acute phase with symptoms like loss of appetite, and a toxic phase affecting 15% of patients with severe symptoms like abdominal pain and seizures.

Most everyone knows how annoying pesky mosquitoes are, but did you also know that they can spread a serious disease called yellow fever? Yellow fever is actually caused by the Flavivirus, but when a mosquito bites an infected human – or even an infected monkey – they become infected too, and then pass on the virus to every person they bite. There are about 200,000 new cases of yellow fever each year in the world, with the majority of cases occurring in areas where there are large populations of infected mosquitoes – particularly countries in Africa and Latin America. In the U.S. however, yellow fever is rare, with the last reported case occurring in 2014.

Since it is caused by a virus, there’s no cure for yellow fever. Instead, patients with this disease can get treatment to help manage their symptoms and help their immune system kick the infection. It should also be noted that there is a vaccine that can be given to prevent yellow fever. One dose of the vaccination can provide up to 10 years protection, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of nine months and 59 years get it if they are living in or traveling to areas where yellow fever is present.

If you have been infected with yellow fever, the symptoms will come on suddenly. Then, the disease progresses in three different phases:

  • The initial infection – Three to six days after the initial infection, a person may experience fever, chills, headaches, and muscle and joint aches.
  • The acute phase – The acute phase of yellow fever typically lasts three to four days, during which a person will develop additional symptoms, including flushing and loss of appetite, in addition to the symptoms they experienced from the initial infection. For many people, this is the last phase of yellow fever and the infection will clear up.
  • The toxic phase – About 15 percent of people with yellow fever won’t recover in the acute phase and will enter the toxic stage. After a brief period of relief from the symptoms of the initial and acute stages, the symptoms will return accompanied by abdominal pain, vomiting, seizures, and other serious symptoms.

Frequently asked questions

  • What is yellow fever and how is it transmitted?

    Yellow fever is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes infected with the Flavivirus.
  • Which regions are most affected by yellow fever?

    Yellow fever is most prevalent in Africa and Latin America where mosquito populations are large.
  • Is there a cure for yellow fever?

    No, there is no cure for yellow fever. However, treatments are available to manage symptoms and boost the immune system.
  • Is there a vaccine for yellow fever?

    Yes, a vaccine is available that offers up to 10 years of protection against yellow fever.
  • Who should get the yellow fever vaccine?

    The yellow fever vaccine is recommended for individuals aged between nine months and 59 years who live in or are traveling to areas with yellow fever.
  • How does yellow fever manifest and progress?

    Yellow fever manifests suddenly and progresses in three phases: the initial infection, the acute phase, and the toxic phase, each with its own set of symptoms.
  • How common is yellow fever in the U.S.?

    Yellow fever is rare in the U.S., with the last reported case in 2014.
  • What are the severe symptoms of yellow fever?

    In its toxic phase, yellow fever can cause severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and seizures.

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