What is Yellow Fever?
Yellow fever is a disease spread through mosquito bites, which affects areas of South America and Africa. Due to its fatality rate and seriousness, many countries require proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever upon entry or re-entry, so you should plan your travels accordingly before you go anywhere affected. ABC Travel Clinic is a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Visit us for more information on Yellow Fever, which countries require vaccinations, and who vaccination is recommended for.
What are the Symptoms of Yellow Fever?
Yellow fever is spread through mosquito bites, and will usually take 3-6 days post infection for symptoms to appear. Yellow fever symptoms include fever, chills, headache, backache, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches. Usually, it feels like a bad cold at first. About 15% of people who get yellow fever develop serious illness that can lead to bleeding, shock, organ failure, and sometimes death.
After recovering from the initial symptoms, some people may enter a toxic phase of the disease 24 hours later. This fever sees a return of high fever, and will affect several body systems like the kidneys and liver. Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice) will develop, along with dark urine, abdominal pain and bleeding from mouth, nose, eyes or stomach. Many will vomit. About half of all patients who enter the toxic phase will die within 7-10 days.
As yellow fever is quite difficult to diagnose, many cases are ignored or misdiagnosed as flu, malaria, viral hepatitis and other haemorrhagic fevers, leading to an increased chance of entering the toxic phase. If Yellow Fever is suspected immediate medical attention is required, and early detection may save lives.
Where am I most at Risk for Contracting Yellow Fever?
Travellers to parts of South America and Africa are at risk for contraction of Yellow Fever. If entering countries with Yellow Fever, you may be required to provide proof of vaccination before you enter the country. This proof is a yellow card called the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis to prove you have had the vaccine. If you are visiting many countries, you may be required to order your travel accordingly. Proof of vaccination is not valid until ten days have passed, so remember to get the vaccine early.
Travellers without the vaccine are most at risk if spending time outdoors or in rural areas, but not significantly so as mosquitos carrying Yellow Fever can be found in urban areas as well.
How can I Prevent Yellow Fever?
The best way to protect yourself is to receive the yellow fever vaccination ten days before your trip. The vaccine provides effective immunity for 99% of the population and is the best way to ensure complete protection. Other measures you can take to protect yourself are avoiding spending time outdoors, preventing mosquito bites by using bug spray or covered clothing, sleeping under a bed net if outdoors, sleeping in air-conditioned rooms, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, getting tested if bitten.
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Yellow fever information, Retrieved from: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/yellow-fever.
Government of Canada (2017). Travel and health safety information: Yellow fever. Retrieved from: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/diseases/yellow-fever
World Health Organization (2013). Yellow fever vaccination recommendation in the Americas. Retrieved from: https://gamapserver.who.int/mapLibrary/Files/Maps/ITH_YF_vaccination_americas.png?ua=1
World Health Organization (2015). Yellow fever vaccination recommendation in Africa, 2015. Retrieved from: https://gamapserver.who.int/mapLibrary/Files/Maps/ITH_YF_vaccination_africa.png?ua=1
World Health Organization (2017). Yellow fever information, Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs100/en/