Yellow fever

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Yellow fever is a life-threatening infection that is caused by a virus. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes that primarily bite during the day.

Infection with yellow fever results in an initial phase of flu-like symptoms such as high fever, headache and muscle pain. 

The second phase is characterised by jaundice, bleeding and shock. 

There is no cure for this virus, only supportive treatment to ease the symptoms. 

Some countries demand a yellow fever vaccination for everyone entering the country. This vaccination must be administered at least ten days prior to arrival and must be registered in an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis

Risk areas

Yellow fever occurs only in certain tropical regions in Africa and Latin America. There is no risk above an altitude of 2300 metres. 

View the map

Prevention

Vaccination

A safe and very effective vaccine is available (Stamaril). 

The vaccine consists of an injection and can only be administered by authorised centres. The vaccine must be administered at least ten days prior to arrival. 

The WHO decided in 2016 that the proof of vaccination for yellow fever is valid for life. However, it is not certain that everyone will have lifelong protection after an initial vaccination. A single reinforcing vaccination is therefore recommended at the occasion of a future travel to an endemic region. 

Vaccination for yellow fever is compulsory in some countries and the vaccine is also recommended for everyone travelling to a country where yellow fever occurs but where vaccination is not compulsory. 

If vaccination is not possible due to medical reasons, then travel to a yellow fever risk area is not recommended. If travel to the area is unavoidable, then the yellow fever vaccination centre can issue a certificate of medical contra-indication and mosquito-repellent measures should be strictly adhered to, especially during the day. 

Side effects

  • Approximately 20% of people who have been vaccinated will experience mild flu-like symptoms - such as fever, muscle pain, headache or nausea - several days after vaccination. 
  • These symptoms can be treated with paracetamol if necessary and disappear within a few days. 
  • Severe side effects can occur in rare cases, particularly in people over the age of 60 years. 

In case of symptoms

Seek medical advice if you suffer any symptoms.

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