Skip to main content
Disease

Yellow fever

Page last updated on 30 September 2019

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

What is yellow fever?

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.

What are the symptoms of yellow fever?

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:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • flushed face
  • constipation
  • stomach pains
  • headache
  • 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
  • death.

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. 

Who is at risk of yellow fever?

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. 

Which countries are affected by yellow fever?

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.

How is yellow fever prevented?

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.

These include:

  • 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.

Which countries require a yellow fever vaccine?

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 (wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/list/maps).

I’m travelling to Australia, do I need a yellow fever vaccine?

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.

I lost my yellow fever book, what do I do?

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.

VaccineHub offers general information only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice

Find a doctor near you
map
image

View the travel map

Launch interactive map

Sources & Citations

  1. Australian Government. Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition. 4.23 Yellow Fever. Available at: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part4~handbook10-4-23 (accessed 16 April 2018).
  2. New South Wales Government Health. Yellow Fever. Available at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/yellow-fever.aspx (accessed 16 April 2018)
  3. Victoria State Government. Better Health Channel. Tetanus. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatment/travel-health-yellow-fever-immunisation (accessed 16 April 2018).
  4. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow fever – symptoms and treatment. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/symptoms/index.html (accessed 16 April 2018)
  5. World Health Organisation (WHO). Yellow Fever Fact Sheet, March 2018. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs100/en (accessed 16 April 2018)
  6. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Areas with risk of yellow fever virus transmission in Africa. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/travel-static/yellowbook/2018/map_3-14.pdf (accessed 16 April 2018)
  7. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Areas with risk of yellow fever virus transmission in Africa. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/travel-static/yellowbook/2018/map_3-15.pdf (accessed 16 April 2018)
  8. Department of Health. Yellow Fever Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-communic-factsheets-yellow.htm#12 (accessed 16 April 2018)
  9. Australian Government. Department of Health. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Number of notifications of all diseases received from State and Territory health authorities, 2017. Available at: http://www9.health.gov.au/cda/source/rpt_2.cfm (accessed 26 April 2018).

SPANZ.STAMA.18.05.0185 - Date of preparation May 2018

Related