Mosquito Maladies – 3. Yellow Fever
This Mosquito Maladies Post Series breaks down some of the most common dangerous diseases that can be transmitted by mosquitos. In this blog, we breakdown: Yellow Fever.
** PLEASE NOTE: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always seek the advice of a doctor and/or medical treatment if necessary**
While rare in the United States, Yellow Fever can, in rare cases, be contracted from visits to tropical areas in both South America and Africa. It is classified as an RNA virus, meaning that it is genetically made of RNA as opposed to DNA, is of the genus Flavivirus, and is, oddly enough, related to West Nile virus. The acute hemorrhagic viral disease is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitos.
The two mosquitos most well-known for carrying and transmitting the virus are the Aedes and Haemagogus. Once infected, both people and primates can pass on the infection to mosquitos shorty prior to becoming symptomatic and for roughly 5 days after. While there is no cure, a highly effective vaccine is available that can offer life-long protection in a single, affordable dose.
Thankfully, as there currently is no cure for the virus, most people infected will either have mild symptoms or no symptoms whatsoever, leading to a full recovery. In a symptomatic transmission people may develop:
- Headache or body aches
- Back pain
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Weak Limbs/Fatigue
These minor symptoms typically disappear within about a week, although fatigue can persist for several months. In more severe cases, there will often be a remission period lasting roughly a day prior to developing more severe symptoms. This can include:
- Significantly Elevated Fever
- Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin)
- Organ Failure
Severe cases have a high fatality rate with between 30-60% of those infected succumbing to the disease. Diagnosis is achieved through laboratory testing and, often, an examination of the patient’s travel history.
The largest risk of contracting the virus is if you are unvaccinated and living in a country with a Yellow Fever endemic. It is less likely for travelers to contract the disease; however, the risk is highly increased if you are not vaccinated prior to visiting a country with an outbreak.
A risk of a pandemic is, unfortunately, possible if infected travelers visit populated areas with mosquitos during their contagious stage. This can be even more serious in an area where the vaccine is not typically distributed and therefore there is a very high rate of transmission amongst the population.
Unfortunately, there is no medication in existence currently that can treat or cure Yellow Fever. However, vaccination is effective and highly recommended for travelers in order to avoid the risk of contracting the virus. Once a patient is confirmed as infected, doctors typically recommend rest, drinking fluids and taking medications to reduce your fever and aches/pains. It is important for patients to follow their doctor’s specific recommendations on what drugs they should and should not take for these symptoms as some can cause complications with Yellow Fever virus and your medical professional will know which drugs will be best for you and your symptoms. In some very severe cases, your doctor may recommend hospitalization for supportive care and monitoring, which can greatly improve chances of survival.
If you believe you may have contracted Yellow Fever virus, it is extremely important to try to avoid any risk of being bitten by another mosquito for up to five days following the onset of symptoms. This is when you are shedding the virus and have the potential to pass it on to someone else. Due to the inability to cure Yellow Fever and the potential fatality of the disease, by avoiding other mosquitos you could be saving multiple lives.
Shiel, W. (2016) Medical Definition of RNA Virus, MedicineNet. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12160 (Accessed: July 2020).
Yellow Fever (2019) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/index.html (Accessed: July 2020).
Yellow Fever (2019) World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/yellow-fever (Accessed: July 2020).