Yellow fever is a critical infection that is spread by mosquitoes. It is reported in various regions of Africa, Central America, South America as well as the Caribbean. Luckily, there is an available vaccine that prevents one from acquiring the condition if travelling to these areas.
Overview on the vaccination
The vaccine for yellow fever is suggested if travelling to:
- Areas with reported cases of yellow fever
- Countries that requires a certificate proving that one has been vaccinated against yellow fever
The vaccine is needed at least 10 days before travelling so that it has time to work. Remember that the vaccine is only valid after this period.
The vaccine provides lifelong protection; thus, a booster dose is not usually required or a new certificate if vaccinated before.
How does it spread?
Yellow fever is spread by mosquito bites. One can acquire it from close contact with an infected individual. The mosquitoes that spread the infection are present in towns and rural areas and most bite during the day.
If travelling to areas with reported cases of yellow fever, it is vital to avoid being bitten, even if vaccinated since mosquitoes can also spread other serious ailments such as dengue and malaria.
This can be done with mosquito nets, using clothes that cover the legs and arms as well as applying insect repellant with 50% DEET.
The initial indication of yellow fever generally arises within 3-6 days after being infected such as:
- Fever of 38 degrees or higher
- Feeling sick or vomiting
- Light sensitivity
- Muscle pain
- Appetite loss and feeling generally unwell
Many individuals can fully recover after 3-4 days. Only a few develop serious symptoms such as:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Bleeding from the nose, mouth or eyes
- Blood-streaked stool or vomit
Management of yellow fever
There is no available cure for yellow fever but the symptoms can be managed as the body fights the infection.
Most can fully recover after 3-4 days. Pain medications can be given to lower the body temperature and alleviate the pain. In addition, increase the intake of fluids to prevent dehydration.
If serious symptoms are present, the individual should be hospitalized for close monitoring and treatment of the symptoms until he/she starts to feel better.
When to seek medical care
A doctor should be consulted right away if the symptoms of yellow fever arise when travelling to an area with reported cases of the condition.
In case the symptoms recur after returning from one of these high-risk areas, consult a doctor for advice as soon as possible. The individual should inform the doctor of areas he/she has travelled to, if he/she thinks that he/she was bitten by a mosquito and the symptoms present. A blood test might be required to check for the presence of the infection.