The South American Yellow Fever Outbreak and What You Need to Know

Yellow fever has become one of the primary travel panics of 2018 with widespread reporting of the disease outbreak in South America and Africa. Most recently, the outbreak in Brazil has caused a lot of concern, but how much do you need to worry about it and is there anything you can do to protect yourself from it? Here, we’re going to look at what you need to know about the South American Yellow Fever Outbreak.

Where does Yellow Fever occur?

There are currently 47 countries where Yellow Fever outbreaks have been recorded. Though the recent news has focused on outbreaks in Brazil and the rest of South America, 90% of all Yellow Fever cases are recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yellow fever can go on to spread in other countries if someone who has contracted the virus enters it, but because the transmission is caused by mosquitoes, it does not spread easily in countries that don’t have them.

How it’s transmitted

Yellow fever is most commonly contracted from mosquitoes. It is typically found in the Aedes mosquito but has been contracted from Haemagogus mosquitoes, too. These insects bite an infected human or monkey which then leads them to infect others by biting them too. Yellow fever does not spread directly from human to human, so areas with mosquitoes hold the greatest risk. These include jungles and densely populated areas with poor water sanitation and still water. There are yellow fever maps of South America and Africa available online that show all the areas where vaccination is currently recommended.

Yellow Fever Symptoms

As the name suggests, the first symptom of the virus is a strong fever that appears 3 to 6 days after being bitten. It’s accompanied by stomach pains, severe headaches, shivers, nausea, and vomiting–though not all symptoms may be present.

The majority of people who contract the virus recover from this fever, but others go into a more dangerous second phase. Patients become jaundiced, tinting the skin and the whites of the eyes to yellow, leading to the name of the fever. The fever will worsen and bleeding from eyes, nose, mouth, and stomach can occur. In some cases, kidney function can deteriorate. This is the most dangerous phase: 50% of patients who enter it die within in 10-14 days, while the other 50% recover without organ damage.

Yellow fever can be difficult to diagnose because it shares symptoms with several other diseases, from the early stages representing the flu, to the later stages looking similar to malaria, dengue fever, and the Zika virus. All of these diseases are spread by mosquitoes, particularly the Aedes mosquito. If you’re concerned you have contracted the virus, you should immediately seek medical attention. A blood test can be done to determine if you have contracted the illness.

Is there a Treatment?

Yellow fever does not have a specific treatment once it has been contracted. There is no cure if you get it, but it has been shown that hydration and treatment of the fever and its accompanying bacterial infections can increase survival rates in those who progress to the second stage of the disease. While there is no precise treatment once you have contracted the disease, there is a vaccine available that has a protective success rate of over 99% that you can get before going to a country with a yellow fever outbreak.

How to prevent yellow fever?

The single most effective way of stopping yourself from contracting yellow fever is to get the vaccination. A single dose provides lifelong immunity, while a fractioned dose can offer a year’s protection. There are other precautions you should take when traveling too. Using repellent sprays, bug nets and staying away from areas with dirty or stagnant water can help you avoid mosquito bites. Remember, mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting multiple blood-borne diseases and causing bacterial infections, not just yellow fever.

Yellow fever Vaccinations

The yellow fever vaccine has been available for decades and is widely used by those traveling to Brazil and South America. Try to get your vaccination at least ten days before entering the country, as it has a 90% successful inoculation rate in ten days and a 99+% effectiveness after thirty days. As mentioned, the vaccine can provide lifelong immunity, with only minimal side effects like low-grade fevers, headaches, and muscle aches. Everyone older than 9 months should be vaccinated if travelling to Yellow Fever zones.

While Yellow Fever is serious and can be contracted quite easily, it shouldn’t be a concern for most travelers. A safe vaccine should be all you need to enjoy your trip to South America without fear of contracting it.