What is Yellow Fever?

What is Yellow Fever?

Yellow fever is also known as yellow jack, or sometimes the American Plague. The word 'yellow' is used for the jaundice that affects some patients. Here's more...
Yellow fever, also known as yellow jack, hit Philadelphia in 1793, causing a lot of pain and turmoil. Unaware of the relationship between mosquitoes and the progress of the disease, the medical community of Philadelphia was dumbfounded. Ultimately, it was decided that the population should abandon the city. The cold weather was finally responsible for the disappearance of the disease. Again, in 1802, during the Haitian Revolution, this deadly disease attacked the French soldiers. More than half of the soldiers died. Research soon began, which revealed an understanding of the way the disease was spread to humans. In the early 20th century, a vaccine was developed and other preventive measures were started.

Definition and Cause

Yellow fever is a viral infection, whose root cause is an infected mosquito. This disease, as revealed earlier, has been the reason behind large epidemics in Africa and the Americas, as recognized from historic texts that date back 400 years.


In the early stage, the infected individual experiences a headache, fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, and jaundice. In about 3 to 4 days, he might experience a brief recovery. The next stage is the remission period, where the fever and symptoms disappear. Most infected individuals will experience recovery at this stage, while the others who are not that fortunate will move into the next stage within 24 hours. The last stage is the intoxication period, in which a multi-organ dysfunction takes place. This period includes brain dysfunction like delirium, seizures, coma, shock, and death, apart from liver and kidney failure, and bleeding disorders/hemorrhage.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Pain in the muscles
  • Jaundice
  • Bleeding, which may progress to hemorrhage
  • Red eyes, face and tongue
  • Brain dysfunction
  • Decreased urination
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Vomiting blood

In the early stages, yellow fever can be confused with diseases like malaria, typhoid, rickettsial disease, hemorrhagic viral fevers, arboviral infections, leptospirosis, viral hepatitis, and poisoning. An individual has to go through a laboratory analysis in order to confirm the presence of the disease. Several other tests are also used to identify the virus. All the tests that are used require laboratory staff that are trained and are able to use specialized equipment and material.


No special treatment is followed for yellow fever. Oral rehydration salts and paracetamol can be used to correct dehydration and fever. If there is a superimposed bacterial infection, it is treated with an antibiotic.


The most important measure for prevention is vaccination. In areas where no vaccination is available, it is important to be cautious. If you are venturing into an area where yellow fever is common, wear clothes that cover your entire body, use mosquito repellents, and sleep under bed nets.

Affected Regions

The virus is present in some tropical areas of Africa and the Americas. In Africa, thirty-three countries, which have a combined population of 500+ million, are at risk. In a year, a large number of cases are reported. Despite the fact that no cases have been reported from Asia, this area is also at risk because of the presence of the appropriate monkeys and mosquitoes.

When to seek medical attention

You are required to seek medical help 10 - 14 days before you enter an endemic area. This is done to check if you need the vaccination or not. Inform your health care provider if you or your family members suffer from a headache, fever, muscle ache, vomiting or jaundice, especially if you have traveled to an area in which the fever is said to occur.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.