Yellow Fever: What It Is, Symptoms, Cause, And Prevention

Yellow fever is one of the many mosquito-borne infections that are often considered a public health epidemic in some regions of the world. The infection can take up to six days before the person infected starts to notice symptoms and, without attending to the infection promptly, life-threatening complications can develop. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 170,000 people are estimated to experience severe symptoms caused by yellow fever every year and up to 60,000 may die from this infection annually.

Prevention is key to avoiding such potential complications. Identifying the yellow fever symptoms is also essential for all those who will be travelling to a location that puts them at high risk for this infection. Early identifying of the symptoms and prompt delivery of treatment can significantly improve survival rates and aid in reducing the risk of experiencing more severe complications due to the infection.

Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito. Can spread diseases such as Mayaro, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya.
Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito

What Are The Symptoms Of Yellow Fever?

Most people will start to experience symptoms of yellow fever within the first three to six days following their infection. The majority of individuals will only experience the initial series of symptoms that have been associated with yellow fever. A small portion of infected may experience more severe symptoms – approximately 15% of all infected individuals develop serious complications and dies within the first two weeks following the infection.

The initial symptoms associated with the yellow fever infection may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • A loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, often accompanied by vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Dehydration

When a patient does not recover during the initial phase of yellow fever, then they may develop the following potentially life-threatening complications:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Jaundice
  • Shock
  • Organ failure


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What Are The Treatment Protocols For Yellow Fever?

The healthcare system has not yet developed a specific type of medication that can treat the virus that causes yellow fever. This, however, does not mean no treatment protocols can be initiated when an individual is infected. Prompt medical care can provide the affected individual with supportive care to assist with alleviating the symptoms caused by the infections. It is also vital for the infected to be treated with appropriate techniques to help restore optimal hydration levels in their body, as the dehydration caused by yellow fever can lead to unpleasant complications. Supportive care can also look for organ failures, such as kidney or liver-related issues, and provide prompt treatment to assist in such conditions.

How To Prevent Yellow Fever?

Several informational sites and campaigns have been launched to make the public aware of the fact that prevention is critical when travelling to a yellow fever risk site. Several techniques can be used to prevent being infected by this mosquito-borne virus effectively. Implementing a combination of these techniques will provide a person with better results and a higher level of protection against the infection.

The Yellow Fever Vaccine

The first and most effective preventative approach to yellow fever is the official vaccine that has been approved for reducing the risk of being infected when travelling to a high-risk location. This vaccine needs to be administered to a person before they visit their travel destination. The yellow fever vaccine has been proven effective to prevent a person from being infected with this virus, which provides a much more efficient approach as compared to being infected and initiating appropriate therapies.

Who should get the yellow fever vaccine?

The yellow fever vaccine is highly recommended for any person who will be travelling to a destination that is listed as a high-risk area for the yellow fever virus. Individuals who are planning to travel should ensure they do some research before their travelling to find out whether their destination is considered a high-risk region.

Who should not get the yellow fever vaccine?

This vaccine is not appropriate for everyone. Individuals who are planning a trip need to consult with a facility close to them to find out if a yellow fever vaccine will be safe and effective for them. In particular, every individual need to be tested for allergy first as an allergic reaction to the yellow fever vaccine can be harmful.

Other indications for individuals that will usually not qualify for a yellow virus vaccine include:

  • Babies who have not yet reached the age of six months.
  • Patients who have undergone organ transplantation.
  • Patients diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency, malignant tumor, and thymus disorder.
  • Patients who are undergoing immunomodulatory therapy or taking immunosuppressive agents.
  • Patients with the HIV.

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What is the minimum age requirement for yellow fever vaccine?

Individuals should note that babies and children are able to obtain the yellow fever vaccine, but not if they are younger than six months. Additionally, when a baby is between the age of six to eight months, the use of a yellow fever vaccine should first be discussed with a healthcare provider. This shot is generally considered safe for babies over the age of eight months.

How long before a before travelling do you have to get yellow fever vaccine?

The yellow fever vaccine takes approximately ten days to become effective and help the patient’s immune system build up an immunity against the virus that causes this infection. Thus, when planning a trip, a person should get this vaccine at least ten days in advance before they go on the trip.

How long does yellow fever vaccine last for?

A single shot of the yellow fever vaccine is enough to provide adequate protection for a person who will be travelling to a destination that will place them at risk of this infection.

For many individuals, a single shot may provide them lifelong prevention of the yellow fever virus. It is, however, often advised that a person obtains a booster shot every decade to ensure effective immunity against the virus.

What are the side-effects of the yellow fever vaccine?

Individuals obtaining the yellow fever vaccine should be aware of certain side-effects that may develop after they have obtained the vaccine. These side-effects may last for up to 10 days after a person has been vaccinated.

Some of the most common side-effects that are considered normal and not serious include:

  • Mild headaches
  • A low fever
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Body aches
  • A lump at the vaccination site
  • Pain and tenderness in the vaccination site
  • A general feeling of being ill

There are more serious adverse reactions that may also develop. In such a case, the patient is advised to contact their doctor. These side-effects may include:

  •  Flu-like symptoms, including vomiting, a loss of balance, irritability, confusion,   a   stiff neck and a stiff back.
  •  Sensitivity to light.
  •  Severe pain in the lower back.
  •  Problems with bowel or bladder control.
  •  Severe muscle weakness.
  •  Seizures.
  •  Behavioral changes.

What Areas Are At High Risk for Infection?

CDC Yellow Fever areas that require the vaccine.

 

Yellow fever is not common in all areas of the world and is more restricted to specific regions as compared to some other mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria. Yellow fever is most commonly found in certain locations within Africa and South America.

In South America, the following locations are considered to be at a high-risk for yellow fever infections:


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A much larger region of the African continent is considered to be areas that put a person at a risk of being infected with this virus during their travels. Locations in Africa with the highest risks associated with them include:

Some countries might require you to show a Yellow Fever Vaccine Certificate.
Yellow Fever Certificate.

How To Obtain A Yellow Fever Vaccine?

Individuals who are planning to travel to an area that is known to be at risk for yellow fever need to ensure they obtain a yellow fever vaccine before their travels. The Public Health Agency of Canada provides a list of approved health care centers where vaccines can be obtained. It is essential to contact only authorized health care centers in advance to ensure a vaccine can be available for an individual who is planning to travel to affected sites.


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Conclusion

The yellow fever infection can cause life-threatening symptoms to develop, making the prevention of the infections the most appropriate approach to treatment.

Preventing yellow fever can be done effectively through a number of different options, with the yellow fever vaccine being the most preferred preventative technique.

Initial research before travelling can help individuals identify the risk of yellow fever and ensure they take appropriate precautionary measures to prevent them from becoming infected.

Our travel health clinics are designated Yellow fever center in Toronto, Etobicoke and Oakville.


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