Yellow fever is a virus infection that is spread by certain mosquitoes. It belongs to the group of viral hemorrhagic fevers. The disease only occurs in tropical Africa and the Amazon region. After infection, from a bite from an infected mosquito, about 1 in 5 people get sick. The onset of the disease is 3-6 days after the mosquito bite. Every year, 200,000 cases of the disease occur worldwide, 90% of which in Africa. About 30,000 people die from the disease each year. In the Netherlands, no case of yellow fever has been known in the past 10 years. The clinical picture can range from the mild flu to a serious, fatal liver and kidney infection.
See also, Dengue virus infection
Yellow fever symptoms
After a bite with an infected mosquito, about 20% of people develop yellow fever. The complaints can vary greatly. The disease begins with a high fever, chills, nausea, and muscle aches. The skin and whites of the eyes may be yellow. This usually takes several days. Most people then recover. In about 20%, the disease develops more severely. The fever rises, there may be bloody vomiting and diarrhea. In the worst case, bleeding from all body openings may occur. 20 to 50% of people die with these serious complaints. In children and the elderly, the course of the infection is more serious.
How does yellow fever develop?
Yellow fever is caused by a virus. The reservoir of this virus are mainly monkeys in the jungle areas. The virus can only be transmitted by a certain mosquito. In areas where this mosquito does not live, the disease does not occur. The virus can multiply in the body of the mosquito and is transmitted to humans through saliva during stinging. A past infection gives lifetime immunity.
Is it serious what can you expect?
Most people will not get sick or have a flu-like picture after being infected with the yellow fever virus. But in 3-20% of people, the disease is fatal due to severe bleeding. There is no treatment directed against the virus. With symptom control, an attempt can be made to maintain physical functions as well as possible. These may include blood transfusions and antibiotics for secondary infections. Unfortunately, these measures often prove insufficient in the severe stage of the disease.
When to the doctor?
No cases of yellow fever have been detected in the Netherlands in the past 10 years. Complaints usually arise during the trip. It is advisable to consult a doctor with a high fever during the trip. Treatment options for yellow fever are limited, but there are several other tropical diseases that manifest with a fever that can be treated well.
What can you do about it yourself?
If you have yellow fever, there is little you can do to influence the course. In any case, visit a doctor. Also, make sure you drink enough and use ORS for diarrhea.
General advice and precautions?
If you plan to travel to a country with yellow fever, get vaccinated. This is even mandatory for a number of countries. The vaccine provides lifelong protection. The vaccine contains a live attenuated virus. This means that this vaccine should not be given to everyone. The vaccine can cause serious complications with diseases or medicines that suppress the immune system. It is also advisable to take anti-mosquito measures during your travels. These are useful not only in the prevention of yellow fever but also for various other diseases, such as malaria and dengue. The most important measures are the use of anti-mosquito spreads (DEET), little uncovered skin surface, and sleeping under a mosquito net.
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