Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes in parts of South America and Africa.
Symptoms of infection include a sudden onset of fever, chills, muscle pain, backache, headache, nausea and vomiting three to six days after the virus enters the body. After three to four days most patients improve and their symptoms disappear.
However, about 15% of patients will go on to have bleeding (from the mouth, nose and eyes and/or stomach), jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abdominal pain with vomiting and problems with kidney function. Half of these patients recover but the remaining half die within 10-14 days of developing these symptoms.
Humans and monkeys are the main animals infected by the virus. A certain type of mosquito (known as Aedes aegypti) is the main vector to transmit the virus. It takes three to six days for the illness to begin once a person is bitten by an infected mosquito.
Infected people can transmit the infection to mosquitoes for up to five days after the onset of symptoms. The infection is not spread directly from person to person or from animal to person.
Yellow fever only occurs in certain parts of Africa and South America. Unimmunised travellers to, and people living in these areas are at risk of infection.
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent yellow fever:
Even if you have been vaccinated it is still important to protect against mosquitoes and reduce the risk of diseases they transmit:
In addition to the general protection measures above, overseas travellers should also:
For more detailed Yellow fever vaccination advice, see the Australian Immunisation Handbook and consult with your GP or travel medicine clinic.
For more detailed information on reducing the risk of mosquito bites at home and while travelling, see the Mosquitoes are a Health Hazard factsheet. This also includes more information on mosquito repellents.
See the Staying healthy when travelling overseas factsheet for further information on travel. The Smart Traveller website also has health information for specific destinations.
Yellow fever is difficult to recognise in its early stages as there are a number of infections that may have similar signs and symptoms. Diagnosis requires a blood test.
There is no specific treatment for Yellow fever. Patients can be treated for dehydration and fever. Intensive care may be needed for seriously ill patients.
In areas in which the Aedes aegypti mosquito lives (such as North Queensland), patients should be cared for in mosquito-proof rooms.
Laboratories and hospitals are required to notify cases of Yellow fever to the local public health unit. Public health units investigate possible cases to identify the risk factors for the disease and prevent infection of mosquitoes in susceptible areas in Australia.
For further information please call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.
For further information on Australian and international Yellow fever vaccination certificate requirements see the Australian Department of Health Yellow fever website page.