Yellow fever (YF) is a viral fever that is spread through bites from infected mosquitoes. Some victims of this viral fever may experience jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) giving the disease its name.
There are an estimated 200,000 cases of yellow fever, causing 30,000 deaths, worldwide each year. Ninety per cent of the deaths are in Africa. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of yellow fever cases has increased over the past two decades. This is because of declining population immunity to infection, deforestation, urbanisation, population movements and climate change.
Yellow Fever: Not Always Just Yellow
Yellow fever has a wide range of symptoms that will develop 3-6 days after infection. These include
Sudden onset of fever
General body aches
About 15% of those infected will progress into a second phase, the severe form of the disease. Those with the severe form of the disease will experience jaundice, bleeding, and eventually shock and failure of multiple organs. Furthermore, 20-50% of those with the severe form of the disease are likely to die. Those who recover experience weakness and fatigue that lasts several months.
Relieving the Symptoms is All That Can Be Done
There is no specific treatment for the disease itself. This means that healthcare professionals are only able to treat and relieve the symptoms of the disease, such as encourage rest, increase intake of fluids, and provide pain relief and medication to reduce the aching and fever.
It is advisable to keep yellow fever patients indoors or within a mosquito net to reduce the chances of more infections.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
WHO maintains that vaccination is the most important preventive measure against yellow fever, especially for those travelling to South America and Africa. This is because the virus is localised to the tropical and subtropical regions of South America and Africa. The vaccine is safe and highly effective, a single dose enough to confer life-long immunity.