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Yellow fever

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Abraham Eisenstein, M.D. |
Yellow fever mosquitoMosquitoes are known as carriers of several types of viruses. One of them is yellow fever. Its natural home are tropical regions of Africa and South America, thus making the travel to those parts of the world dangerous.


There are two kinds of yellow fever: jungle yellow fever and urban yellow fever. Patients can get jungle yellow fever if they are bitten by mosquitoes that have been infected after feeding on infected monkeys. Fortunately, this type is rare and occurs mainly in persons who live in tropical rain forests. Urban yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes infected by other people. These mosquitoes have adapted to living among humans in cities. This type is the cause of most yellow fever outbreaks and epidemics.

Yellow fever ranges from a mild illness to very severe hepatitis and hemorrhagic fever. Many infections are mild, but unfortunately this fever can cause life-threatening illness. The time from infection to illness is usually three to six days.

Yellow fever has three stages: an early stage, a period of remission, and period of intoxication. In the first stage the symptoms are headache, muscle and joint aches, fever, loss of appetite and vomiting. After three to four days symptoms often go away, but just briefly.

Then the second stage occurs in which some people will recover but other can move to the third and the most dangerous stage. The second stage lasts for just one day. The period of intoxication is the period when many organs stop to work. At this stage heart, liver, and kidney fail to work, the patients has brain dysfunction and seizures, and after that coma and death are the final outcome. Liver failure causes jaundice which gives yellow fever its name.

How serious a condition can be we can see from just one fact: fatality ranges from 15 percent to more than 50 percent. In other words, in some areas 50 percent of infected people die.

For now, there is no specific treatment for yellow fever and that means that treatment is focused on symptoms, with lot of fluid and drugs that relieve symptoms of fever and aching. It is important to notice that Aspirin, which is in free sale in many countries, should be avoided. The doctor will also advise that infected person stays in the hospital or at home for a few days so that he can't contribute to the transmission cycle.

What to do as a prevention? The most important thing is to see the doctor two weeks before travelling to an endemic area to find out should you be vaccinated. Vaccination is the main prevention and every person being vaccinated gets International Certificate of Vaccination. Other precautions against mosquito bites are wearing long sleeves and using sprays against mosquitoes. Infected mosquitoes usually bite at dusk and dawn.

If you just returned from the trip to Africa or South America and you notice that you have fever, headaches, muscle aches or vomiting, see the doctor immediately. The disease must be treated as soon as possible.

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