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Yellow Fever: Vaccinations, symptoms, precautions and more…by Dalene Ingham-Brown

What is Yellow Fever?

Yellow Fever, also known as “Yellow Jack" in slang, is a mosquito-borne viral disease, spread by the bite of female mosquitoes. Just in case there are any doctors in the house, in technical terms, Yellow Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease that is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family. Check out the funny educational YouTube video below to better understand Yellow Fever, it's symptoms and how it can be prevented.


When is Yellow Fever Prevalent?

The majority of the little suckers are fussy with the conditions they live in. Therefore Yellow Fever is most common at the end of the rainy season in West and Central Africa which is July to October.


How Can I Get Yellow Fever?

Seeing as the disease is passed on from infected mosquito to human, the infection happens when someone is actually bitten by an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.


How Can I Avoid It?

If you’re planning to travel to a country affected by Yellow Fever, you will need to get a Yellow Fever vaccination and the subsequent Yellow Fever vaccination certificate which verifies that you have received the immunisation. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is valid for 10 years. When entering an affected area you will need to present your vaccination certificate. Officials will not let you into a country without it. Kapeesh? As a further safety precaution (because getting bitten by any mosquito isn't fun) it's advised that you wear long sleeves and long pants and use an insect repellent containing DEET when out in the evenings. Sleeping under a mosquito net decreases chances of getting bitten by mosquitoes, also, staying in rooms with air-conditioning or a fan helps. At night you will find that burning a mosquito coil proves to be very effective at deterring mosquitoes.


Above: mosquito by Zoran Ozetsky

Where is Yellow Fever Prevalent?

The Yellow Fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa, but not in Asia. As far as white coats know, the only hosts of the virus are primates and several species of mosquito. What countries require you to have a yellow fever certificate? Check out the World Health Organisation's country list of yellow fever vaccination requirements and recommendations.

Symptoms of Yellow Fever:

If you only have a mild infection your symptoms will be one, or a few, of the following: fever, headache, chills, back pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Mild infection often only lasts for three to four days. Fifteen percent of these cases lead to a toxic phase with recurring fever, this time accompanied by jaundice due to liver damage, as well as abdominal pain. Other symptoms include bleeding in the mouth, the eyes and in the gastrointestinal tract which causes blood to appear in up-heaved vomit. Not fun.  Only about 20% of cases where infection has led to the toxic phase prove to be fatal. If you survive a Yellow Fever infection you will have life-long immunity to the disease. Luckily there usually isn’t any permanent organ damage from getting Yellow Fever.

Treatment of Yellow Fever:

In the case of Yellow Fever, prevention is better than cure, seeing as there isn’t an effective treatment against the Yellow Fever virus. The flu-like symptoms you get after first contracting the virus is treatable with acetaminophen. Serious infections need medical attention as soon as possible, making hospitalisation one’s best bet. With a simple Yellow Fever vaccination, you will be happily protected against Yellow Fever and are free to travel in affected areas without hassle.

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