Yellow Fever Vaccination - Do I need it?

Yellow Fever is a mosquito-borne virus so it’s not infectious between individuals (like a cold or flu) but only to the people bitten by an infected mosquito. It carries a high mortality rate.

There is a risk of Yellow Fever in tropical areas of Africa and South America, as well as eastern Panama, Central America and Trinidad in the Caribbean. However the dynamic nature of the disease means that there are additional risk areas and that travellers should check a national travel information site for the changes. For example, see nathnac.org.

The risk of getting Yellow Fever is determined by several factors:

  • Your travel destination
  • The intensity of Yellow Fever transmission in the area – ie how many mosquitoes carrying the virus
  • The season you’re travelling in
  • How long you’re in the risk area
  • Your activity while you’re there – are you working outside or inside, etc
  • Your immunisation status.
  • Yellow Fever is preventable by vaccination.

Yellow Fever symptoms.

The disease varies in its severity and initial symptoms are:

  • Muscle aches
  • High temperature
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting.

In many people there will be an improvement and a gradual recovery within about 3-4 days.

However 15-25% of sufferers will relapse 24 hours after an apparent recovery and have:

  • Haemorrhagic fever with bleeding from the eyes, mouth, ears and stomach (seen by vomiting fresh blood)
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the eyes and skin
  • Kidney damage
  • Shock and major organ failure.

Of the people who develop this severe stage of Yellow Fever, up to 80% will die. Those who survive will have life-long immunity to future infection.

Yellow Fever treatment and Yellow Fever prevention.

There is no specific anti-viral treatment for Yellow Fever. Medical staff can only manage the patient’s symptoms.

The 2 ways to prevent Yellow Fever are by avoiding mosquito bites and by Yellow Fever vaccination which has been available or 60 years and so has proved itself to be very safe.

Yellow Fever vaccination side effects (allergy, meningitis or total body reactions) are extremely rare and occur in only 1 in 130,000-200,000 vaccinations. There’s more information at nathnac.org.

Expected Yellow Fever vaccine side effects are mild. They include soreness at the vaccination site, headache, slight fever and muscle aches.

CLICK HERE for the vaccination schedule and precautions.

The vaccination can only be given at an approved Yellow Fever centre and an internet search for your local area will show you where the service is available.

When travelling you will need to keep the certificate you’re given at vaccination with your passport and be prepared to show it at any airport/border crossing during your journey. It may be a requirement for entry into some countries.

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