Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes in parts of Central and South America and Africa.
The “yellow" in the name refers to the jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) that may affect some people. Persons travelling to countries where yellow fever is considered a risk are recommended to see their doctor to discuss vaccinations against the disease, at least 10 days prior to their departure.
Key disease information
Yellow fever is a serious viral disease transmitted by a specific type of mosquito (known as Aedes aegypti). It is found in parts of Africa and Central and South America. The name of the disease comes from the fact that people with serious infections have yellow skin and eyes (jaundice) caused by infection of their liver.
The first symptoms of yellow fever appear 3-6 days after exposure to the virus. These symptoms are known as stage one of the disease, and may include:
- flushed face
- stomach pains
- muscle pain
- restlessness and irritability.
These symptoms last for approximately 3-4 days and then settle over another couple of days. In mild cases, the infection ends here. In more severe cases (approx. 15-25%), this is followed by serious symptoms know as stage two (toxic stage). About 50% of the people that reach this stage will die. Symptoms in stage two include:
- high fever
- pain in the upper part of the abdomen with vomiting of black ‘coffee grounds’ /bleeding
- jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- kidney failure
- liver failure
Yellow fever is a serious disease - urgent medical advice is needed if you have travelled to an area where yellow fever is present and you develop similar symptoms.
Yellow fever generally only occurs in certain parts of Africa and South America. Therefore, people living in these areas as well as unimmunised travellers are at greater risk of infection.
Yellow fever occurs in 47 countries the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa (34 countries) and Central and South America (13 countries).
Because there is a risk of travellers bringing yellow fever back from these countries to others such as Australia where it does not occur, many countries (including Australia) require proof of vaccination upon entry into the country.
Vaccination is important for preventing yellow fever. Australians travelling to high risk yellow fever areas should be vaccinated against the disease before travel. Travellers are advised to visit their General Practitioner or travel medicine specialist before travelling overseas to discuss suitable vaccination options.
Australians should be aware that yellow fever vaccination may be a formal requirement to enter some countries where the disease is present. Travellers to areas where yellow fever may be present are advised to take extra precaution to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
- Using insect repellent when outdoors and wearing light, long sleeved protective clothes
- Treating clothes with repellent
- Taking extra precautions during dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active
- Book accommodation in rooms with air conditioning or adequate screening, like a bed net or aerosol room insecticides.
Many countries require evidence of yellow fever vaccination prior to entry if you have recently travelled to one of the 47 countries where there is a high risk of yellow fever transmission. This includes entry back into Australia.
The fact that a country has no requirement for yellow fever vaccination does not imply that there is no risk of yellow fever transmission. Travelers should check the Centres for Disease Prevention and Control website for the most up to date information on countries where yellow fever vaccine is recommended (www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/maps/index.html).
Anyone aged 12 months or older who has stayed overnight or longer in a declared yellow fever infected country within 6 days prior to arrival in Australia, is required to show evidence of yellow fever vaccination. This is documented on an approved yellow fever vaccination certificate.
For further information regarding the yellow fever vaccination, speak with your healthcare professional.
The issuing vaccinating centre that gave you the original certificate may be able to provide you with a duplicate. If you do not have a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate, you risk being refused entry into many countries, or may require vaccination upon entry.
Sources & Citations
- Australian Government, Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Yellow fever. Available at: https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccine-preventable-diseases/yellow-fever (accessed 20 March 2020).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow fever – Symptoms, diagnosis & treatment. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/symptoms/index.html (Accessed 20 March 2020).
- National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Number of notifications of Yellow fever, Australia, in the period of 1991 to 2019 and year-to-date notifications for 2020. Available at: http://www9.health.gov.au/cda/source/rpt_3.cfm (Accessed 20 March 2020).
- World Health Organization. Yellow fever. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/yellow-fever (Accessed 20 March 2020).
- Victoria State Government – Better Health Channel. Travel health – yellow fever immunisation Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/travel-health-yellow-fever-immunisation (Accessed 20 March 2020).
- New South Wales Health. Yellow fever fact sheet. Available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/yellow-fever.aspx (Accessed 20 March 2020).
- Australian Government Department of Health. Yellow fever – general fact sheet. Available at: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-communic-factsheets-yellow.htm (Accessed 20 March 2020).
- Australian Government Department of Health. National Guidelines for Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres and Providers. Available at: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/D60F275C45BDEBBACA25833500790582/$File/Guidelines-Yellow-Fever-Vaccination-Centres.pdf (Accessed 20 March 2020).
SPANZ.STAMA.18.05.0185(1) - Date of preparation April 2020Show All