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Yellow Fever Virus: What You Should Know and What To Watch Out For

Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Elaine Felicitas · Updated Oct 13, 2021

Yellow Fever Virus: What You Should Know and What To Watch Out For

Yellow fever is a viral disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It is mostly seen in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. As the name suggests, its most common indicator is the yellowish skin and eye color it gives the patient. The disease is generally not present outside of Africa and South America, but because of frequent travels to and from these locations, it is best to know more about yellow fever.

Signs and Symptoms of Yellow Fever

Stage 1

When a person is exposed to the disease, the most common signs and symptoms of yellow fever are as follows:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Irritability that may be caused by eyes being more sensitive to light

Stage 2

These symptoms disappear after 3 to 4 days. In severe cases, the patient moves to stage 2 which is a more serious condition and manifests through the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Jaundice or yellowish color of skin and eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark color urine
  • Vomiting of blood
  • Passing of stool with blood

What are the Causes of Yellow Fever?

Yellow fever is caused by a specific type of virus and it is transmitted through mosquito bites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito feeds on infected humans and other primates, and can transmit the virus from human to human, human to primate, and primate to human. The yellow fever virus settles in the mosquito’s salivary glands. When it bites another person or primate, it enters the bloodstream and infects the body.

What are the Risks and Complications of Yellow Fever?

While not all cases of yellow fever move to stage 2, it is good to know what occurs in the body.

During this stage, the yellow fever virus infects different internal organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart. Aside from jaundice that is the most obvious indicator of the disease, there may be other risks and complications. These include:

  • Liver and kidney failure
  • Heart rate becomes slower
  • Vomiting of blood
  • Presence of bleeding in the eyes, mouth, nose, and ears
  • Delirium
  • Coma
  • Death

20 to 50% of the people who experience yellow fever result in death with the overwhelming complications it brings the body. Severe yellow fever may result in organ damage and it may take months before the patient fully recovers from the disease.

What Can You Do About It?

Yellow fever is a highly preventable disease but there is currently no known cure. The treatment given to patients addresses symptoms and helps the body throughout the infection.

Painkillers are given to relieve muscle pain. Rehydration is also needed as patients experience fluid loss because of the disease. Consult your doctor if the signs and symptoms are present in your case.

The yellow fever virus can be prevented through vaccination and mosquito protection. When traveling to the specific regions where the virus is present, make sure to get vaccinated as it provides at least 10 years of protection. Make sure to discuss with your doctor about vaccination for children, pregnant women, and the elderly before travelling to those areas.

Mosquito repellant is also useful to prevent mosquito bites. It gives protection to your body if used properly. Make sure to dress appropriately to lessen your exposure, and minimize travel to mosquito-infested areas.

Key Takeaway

Yellow fever is not as pervasive in Asia or in the Philippines, but it is good to learn about it. It spreads through mosquito bites and can cause serious medical complications.

Its name comes from the yellowish skin and eye color that affects the patients. Vaccination is the best preventive measure for the yellow fever virus as there is no known cure at the moment. It is also good to equip yourself with mosquito repellant should you travel to Africa and South America to keep yourself safe from this disease.

Learn about Infections from Insects here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Kristina Campos, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Elaine Felicitas · Updated Oct 13, 2021

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