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How is Yellow Fever Treated?

Yellow fever, a mosquito-borne flavivirus disease, is the prototypical viral hemorrhagic fever. The effects of yellow fever are similar to other hemorrhagic fevers but with more severe liver injury. Yellow fever is currently only found in tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa, where it affects humans and non-human primates.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for yellow fever. This makes preventative measures such as vaccination essential. There is a safe and effective yellow fever vaccine that confers life-long immunity. Supportive treatment, including rest, fluids and medicine, is aimed at reducing the symptoms such as fever and aching. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen) should be avoided as they may increase the risk of bleeding. It is very important that people who are sick with yellow fever should be protected from further mosquito exposure especially during the first few days of illness to avoid spreading the disease. Basic precautions include mosquito netting and moving the patient indoors. Survivors of yellow fever are believed to have lifelong immunity to the disease.

Symptoms of yellow fever include sudden fever, severe headache, back pain, chills, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and general body aches. The majority of people experiencing these symptoms improve, but approximately 15% will appear to improve before developing severe yellow fever. Severe symptoms include high fever, yellowing skin and eyes, bleeding, shock, and organ failure. The “yellow” in yellow fever comes from the yellowing of the skin in the disease process. About 20-50% of patients who develop severe yellow fever die.

If you are traveling to an area with endemic yellow fever, we highly recommend you visit a travel clinic to get recommended vaccines and preventive medicines before you go. Many countries in Africa require proof of yellow fever vaccination prior to entry.


McGuinness, Ian, J. David Beckham, Kenneth L. Tyler, and Daniel M. Pastula. "An overview of yellow fever virus disease." The Neurohospitalist 7, no. 4 (2017): 157.

Monath, Thomas P. "Treatment of yellow fever." Antiviral research 78, no. 1 (2008): 116-124.


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