What Is Yellow Fever?

Yellow fever is a virus that is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.

Risk factors for getting yellow fever include traveling to an area where yellow fever is present.

Symptoms for yellow fever include:

  • High fever
  • Chills and muscle aches
  • Yellowing of the skin, known as jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Backache

More serious complications include:

Treatment involves taking care of the infected person while they recover. There is no medication to treat the illness.

Illness from yellow fever varies from a self-limited illness to hemorrhagic fever, which can be very severe and lead to death.

What Is the Yellow Fever Vaccine?

The vaccine is a weakened, live form of the yellow fever virus. The vaccine is created by growing the live virus in a lab. The vaccine is administered by a shot.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent yellow fever. The yellow fever vaccine is recommended for those who are traveling to or living in areas where the disease is present. Your doctor will help you decide if the vaccine is right for you. The vaccine may be inappropriate for certain individuals.

What Are the Risks Associated With Yellow Fever Vaccine?

Common minor side effects include:

  • Fever
  • Soreness, swelling, or redness at the injection site
  • Muscle aches

Rare, serious side effects include:

  • Nervous system reaction
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Organ failure
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

The vaccine should not be given to:

  • Infants aged six months or younger—In rare cases when your 6-8 month-old baby must travel to high-risk areas, talk to the doctor about the vaccine.
  • People over the age of 60 are at higher risk for serious complications. If you are traveling to an area of yellow fever risk, consult an infectious disease specialist to find out if vaccination is a good choice for you.
  • People who:
    • Are severely allergic to eggs, chicken, or gelatin
    • Have a disease that weakens the immune system, such as HIV infection—If you are traveling to high-risk areas, talk to your doctor about the vaccine.
    • Are receiving treatments that weaken the immune system, such as cancer treatment
    • Have cancer
    • Have problems with the thymus or have had their thymus removed
    • Are pregnant—Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the vaccine if you are traveling to a high-risk area. If you are vaccinated, your doctor may use a blood test to confirm immunity.
    • Are breastfeeding—If you are traveling to high-risk areas, talk to your doctor about the vaccine.
What Other Ways Can Yellow Fever Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

To decrease your chance of getting yellow fever:

  • Use insect repellent
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Stay in screened areas
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?

An outbreak of yellow fever in the United States is unlikely since the virus is not geographically present in this country. But, in the event of an outbreak, uninfected people would be vaccinated and precautions would be taken to reduce transmission.