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Definition Return to top
Yellow fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes.
Causes Return to top
Yellow fever is caused by a small virus that is spread by the bite of mosquitoes. This disease is common in South America and in sub-Saharan Africa.
Anyone can get yellow fever, but the elderly have a higher risk of severe infection. If a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms usually develop 3 - 6 days later.
Yellow fever has three stages:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
A person with advanced yellow fever may show signs of liver failure, renal failure, and shock.
If you have symptoms of yellow fever, tell your doctor if you have traveled to areas where the disease is known to thrive. Blood tests can confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment Return to top
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever. Treatment for symptoms can include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Yellow fever ranges in severity. Severe infections with internal bleeding and fever (hemorrhagic fever) are deadly in up to half of cases.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Get medical attention at least 10 - 14 days before traveling to an endemic area for yellow fever to find out whether you should be vaccinated against the disease.
Tell your health care provider right away if you or your child develop fever, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or jaundice, especially if you have traveled to an area where yellow fever is known to occur.
Prevention Return to top
If you will be traveling to an area where yellow fever is common:
There is an effective vaccine against yellow fever. Ask your doctor at least 10 - 14 days before traveling if you should be vaccinated against yellow fever.
References Return to top
Bryan CS, et al. Yellow fever in the Americas. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2004;18(2):275-292.
Cohen J, Powderly WG. Infectious Diseases. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Elsevier; 2004:2095-2098.
Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. London: Churchill Livingstone; 2005.
Auerbach PS. Wilderness Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2001:1578-1580.Update Date: 11/1/2007 Updated by: Kenneth M. Wener, M.D., Department of Infectious Diseases, Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.