Yellow fever
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Yellow fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever that presents a significant health risk. Yellow fever can lead to severe health effects, include both internal and external bleeding, tissue death, and shock.


Symptoms of yellow fever can vary depending on the age of the patient. Infants and young children tend to develop a rash and experience significantly severe symptoms like the flu, just more violent. Older children and young adults experience eye pain, a severe headache, high fever, muscle pain, and a rash. Though rare, the hemorrhagic form of yellow fever can lead to internal and external bleeding as well as convulsions and circulatory failure. Yellow fever, as well as its cousins, dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever affect anywhere from 50 million to 100 million people annually. Major outbreaks at major tourist destinations are not uncommon.


Mosquitoes, in particular the Aedes aegypti, are the most responsible for spreading yellow fever. Yellow fever is still most prominent in part of Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, but some cases have been reported in recent years in the United States, including the outlying island of Hawaii.

While disease becomes “new” to humans, the more realistic explanation is that the diseases that strike have been around for hundreds or thousands of years and we encroached on a habitat where the virus was ample enough to cause the spread of the virus or bacteria. With an increase in the human population coupled with the ease of global travel, populating the world with “new” diseases will happen again and again. Yellow fever is just one of those reflective reminders.

Yellow fever is predominantly in South America as well as some of the most popular parts of Africa for tourists. Risk factors for developing yellow fever include traveling to areas where yellow fever is rampant.


Screening and diagnosing yellow fever can be rather difficult, and most cases in the United State are not accurately diagnosed the first time. Yellow fever initially mimics other illnesses that are equally as likely to be more like severe flu symptoms. Without an accurate travel history or exposure information a physician may have a very difficult time diagnosing yellow fever.


Complications from yellow fever may include any number of other serious illnesses including Uveitis which is the inflammation of the lining just under the whites of the eyes, pericarditis which is the swelling of the pericardium or the lining that protects the heart, encephalitis which is a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain, orchitis which is inflammation of the testes, hair loss, and spontaneous abortion.


Treatment options for yellow fever may include the use of antiviral medications to help shorten the lifespan of the illness, but in many cases, supportive care is all that is offered. Adequate fluids are needed to retain valuable electrolytes, the prescription of a breathing ventilator if personal ventilation fails, and therapy for secondary infections and organ failures.


Preventing yellow fever in developing nations has proven to be an enormous challenge, although prevention is much easier than treating the disease. However, for individuals traveling to parts of the world where yellow fever is prevalent, vaccinations are highly recommended. Even though there is supportive therapy in the United States as well as antiviral medications, these things may not be readily available when traveling to parts of the world where yellow fever is common. Vaccinations are not guarantees that an individual won’t contract the illness, but it is the best line of defense against yellow fever as well as other hemorrhagic fevers. Vaccinations reduce the chances of contracting these illnesses by at least 85% if not higher.

Avoiding high risk areas is recommended even after a vaccination. With or without a vaccination, high risk areas during a serious outbreak are not the place anyone would ever choose to be.

Protecting oneself against mosquitoes is an important part of protecting against yellow fever as well as other infectious diseases transmitted by the mosquito. For adults, concentrations of DEET which reach about 20 to 25% are appropriate. This can be used on the skin of children over two years, but die to its intensity, it is not recommended for young hands. Natural products such as oils of lemongrass, cedar, lemon eucalyptus, and geranium can often be equally as effective without the harsh effects for young children. Mosquito netting and protective clothing is also part of healthy mosquito protection.
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