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Yellow Fever


Yellow fever is a viral disease. Most people recover. Some have serious or life-threatening illness.


An infected mosquito passes the virus through a bite on the skin.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Living in or going to places where yellow fever is common
  • Not getting a yellow fever vaccine, or
  • Not using mosquito protection


Symptoms appear within a week after a mosquito bite. The acute phase lasts 3 to 4 days. Then symptoms go away. At the end of the acute phase, some people move to the toxic phase.

Some may not have symptoms. Those who do may have:

Acute phase:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting

Toxic phase:

  • High fever
  • Belly pain
  • Bleeding from the gums, nose, eyes, or stomach
  • Vomit that appears black—caused by bleeding
  • Yellowing of the skin—jaundice
  • Confusion, seizure, or coma


The doctor will ask about symptoms, health, and travel history. A physical exam will be done. Yellow fever can be confirmed by blood tests.


The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. It may include:

  • Fluids by mouth or IV to prevent dehydration
  • Medicines to lower fever and pain
  • Dialysis (toxic phase) to help kidneys filter waste
  • Transfusion (toxic phase) to replace blood lost through bleeding


Yellow fever can be prevented with a vaccine.

The risk can be reduced by covering up the skin, wearing bug spray with DEET, and using screens.

People who have had yellow fever will not get it again.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization


Public Health Agency of Canada

Travel Health and Safety


Collaborative group for studies on yellow fever vaccines. Duration of immunity in recipients of two doses of 17DD yellow fever vaccine. Vaccine. 2019 Aug 14;37(35):5129-5135.

Yellow fever. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/maps/index.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Yellow fever. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/yellow-fever. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Yellow fever VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/yf.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.

Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 1/29/2021