Yellow Fever

An infection, mainly confined to Africa, that is transmitted by mosquitoes

  • Travel to Africa and South and Central America is a risk factor
  • Age, gender, and genetics are not significant factors

The tropical viral infection yellow fever was given its name because it can cause severe jaundice, in which the skin turns bright yellow. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes from monkeys to humans and then by mosquitoes from person to person. More than 9 in 10 cases occur in Africa; the remainder occur mainly in South and Central America. The disease has become less common with routine immunization, but epidemics still occur in Africa.

The symptoms of yellow fever appear suddenly, 3–6 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. In some cases, there may be a mild flu-like illness. However, in other cases there may be abnormal bleeding, liver failure, or kidney failure. Severe bleeding may lead to shock. Rarely, the infection leads to convulsions and coma.

Diagnosis is based on the symptoms and confirmed by a blood test to look for antibodies against the virus. There is no specific treatment for yellow fever, and the disease is fatal in 2–5 out of 10 people. An attack provides lifelong immunity. Immunization gives protection for at least 10 years and is recommended for people travelling to high-risk areas (see Travel immunizations).

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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