Yellow Fever

by Tyler P. Miller

An Overview of Yellow Fever

Yellow fever broke out in the North American continent starting in the 1600s. During the early days of the United States of America, yellow fever was widely feared. There were outbreaks in major American port cities. In the 1800s the yellow fever "vaccines" produced were ineffective, but as a result of the Spanish-American War (which was fought in yellow feverish Cuba) the Government starting researching a vaccine, but this too failed. Yellow fever spread among the Panama Canal workers. A vaccine was not discovered until the mid-twentieth century.


Yellow fever affects the eyes, the skin, the kidneys, the stomach, the head, and other internal organs.


Yellow fever causes the eyes and the skin to yellow. It causes the kidneys to shut down. It causes intense stomach pain and headaches. It also causes dehydration and bleeding.


There are three types of yellow fever. Sylvatic yellow fever occurs in the tropical rainforests. Intermediate yellow fever occurs in the more humid parts of Africa. Multiple villages can be impacted at once by intermediate yellow fever because of mosquitos. And, finally, urban yellow fever occurs in areas with large population densities. Urban yellow fever can lead to large epidemics.

The Causes of Yellow Fever

Mosquitos are the primary method of transmission for yellow fever. Mosquitos carry the disease from the monkey population to the human population. Infected mosquitos may infect multiple monkeys and multiple humans. In urban settings, such as cities, the disease is spread by infected individuals to the rest of the population in that area. This is what occurred in the City of Philadelphia during an outbreak in the 1790s. The disease can also spread in jungles and rural areas as a result of mosquitos.

The Incidence of Yellow Fever

There are 200,000 cases of yellow fever a year. These cases are primarily located in the African continent. It is also common in Latin America. Yellow fever does not discriminate based on age or race; it can infect anyone that is exposed to it. 30,000 people die from yellow fever each year! That is a mortality rate of fifteen percent. Sadly the number of yellow fever cases has been rising.

Signs and Symptoms of Yellow Fever

Yellow fever occurs in two stage. In the first, or mild, stage, the infected individual may vomit, have muscle pain, loss their appetite, and have a fever. This should only last for three or four days. Fifteen percent of those that go through the first stage enter the second, or serious, stage. Individuals in this stage suffer jaundice, bleeding, abdominal pain, and vomiting. The kidneys and other bodily systems start to stop functioning. Fifty percent of those that enter the second stage will die, but, ironically, the other fifty percent make full recoveries.

Diagnosis of Yellow Fever

Diagnosing yellow fever is not easy during its early stages. Doctors often confuse this illness with other illnesses such as malaria and viral hepatitis. A doctor may use a blood test to diagnose a patient with yellow fever. A blood test will detect yellow fever because the body produces antibodies to fight the disease. Blood and liver samples collected after death can also indicate if someone suffered from this illness. Unfortunately these tests require trained laboratory workers and special medical machinery that are not available in the nations most impacted by yellow fever.

Treatments for Yellow Fever

Unfortunately there is no direct treatment for yellow fever. Instead treatment is designed to ease the pain of the infected. The ill may treated for dehydration and infections that have set in after the fever. A patient with yellow fever that receives supportive treatment has a better chance of survival. Unfortunately good treatment is not available in less economically affluent nations.

How to Prevent Yellow Fever

One way to prevent yellow fever is to vaccinate people for the disease. The vaccine is affordable and lasts a lifetime. The vaccine has very few health risks. Eradicating mosquito populations is another way to prevent yellow fever. This has only been effective in urban areas and should be used while a population are still being vaccinated for the fever. A third way to prevent yellow fever is for sovereign states that are likely to have outbreaks to have plans to deal with such an outbreak; they would need laboratories to test blood samples for the disease.

Additional Facts on Yellow Fever

Fifty percent of those with a serious case of yellow fever that do not receive medical help will die.


It is called "yellow fever" because it causes jaundice in those infected. Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.


It takes three to six days for yellow fever to incubate in a human body.


Twelve poorer nations have conducted vaccination campaigns to reduce the risk of yellow fever epidemics. These campaigns occurred between 2007 and 2012.


Vaccines are effective for eighty to one hundred percent of people within ten days of receiving the vaccination.