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Yellow Fever

Definition

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

Causes

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

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

Diagnosis

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

Treatment

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

Prevention

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.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

World Health Organization
http://www.who.int

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Travel Health and Safety
https://travel.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

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