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by Kohnle D

What Is Yellow Fever?

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus. A mosquito passes the virus to you through a bite on your skin.

Your risk is higher if you live in or travel to places where yellow fever is common.

Some people do not have problems. If symptoms appear, they may involve:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Yellowing of the skin— jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Backache

Serious problems may include:

The goal of care is to ease symptoms. There are no medicines to treat the illness.

What Is the Yellow Fever Vaccine?

The shot comes from a weakened, live form of the virus made in a lab.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

A shot is the best way to avoid yellow fever. You may need it if you live in or travel to places where it's common.

What Are the Risks Associated With Yellow Fever Vaccine?

Common minor reactions may involve:

  • Fever
  • Soreness, swelling , or redness at the shot site
  • Muscle aches

Rare, serious reactions may involve:

  • The nervous system
  • Allergies— anaphylaxis
  • Organ failure

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Some people shouldn't get the shot and may include:

  • Babies aged 6 months and younger
  • Adults aged 60 years and older
  • Those who have :
    • Serious allergies to eggs, chicken, or gelatin.
    • A disease that weakens immunity
    • Care that weakens immunity
    • Problems with the thymus or have had it removed
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

If you are in a high-risk group and need the vaccine, talk to your doctor about the risks. Your doctor can test your blood for signs of immunity.

What Other Ways Can Yellow Fever Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

To help lower your chances of yellow fever:

  • Stay in places with screens or air conditioning.
  • Cover your skin with long clothes, socks, and shoes.
  • Use bug sprays that contain DEET.
  • Use mosquito netting treated with bug spray.
  • Keep in mind mosquitoes are more active during early morning, late afternoon, and early evening.
  • Tip out standing water in buckets, flower pots, or other containers. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.

What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?

Yellow fever isn’t present in the US, so an outbreak isn’t likely. If one occurs, people without yellow fever would get the shot to lower the chance of getting it from others.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  https://www.cdc.gov 

World Health Organization  http://www.who.int 


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Staples JE, Gershman M, Fischer M, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yellow fever vaccine: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010;59(RR-7):1-27.

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Vaccines & immunizations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html. Updated April 23, 2018. Accessed May 14, 2018.

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Yellow fever vaccine. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T356494/Yellow-Fever-Vaccine  . Updated April 18, 2018. Accessed May 14, 2018.

Yellow fever VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/yf.html. Updated October 18, 2016. Accessed May 14, 2018.

2/19/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114530/Yellow-fever  : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Transmission of yellow fever vaccine virus through breast-feeding—Brazil, 2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59(05):130-132.

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