What Is Yellow Fever And How Is It Transmitted?

Yellow fever is a viral disease spread by infected mosquitoes, mainly the Aedes aegypti mosquito. It causes symptoms from a mild fever and chills to severe jaundice. This is the yellowing of the skin and eyes. These signs usually show up 3 to 6 days after catching the virus.

The virus comes from the Flavivirus genus. Other important viruses in this group are dengue, West Nile, and Zika. It stays alive in a cycle between mosquitoes and primates, including people, in Africa and South America. Yellow fever outbreaks happen in cities with lots of mosquitoes and little immunity among the people.

It’s hard to diagnose yellow fever early because it looks like many other viral diseases. Doctors may suspect yellow fever if the patient has been to areas where it is common. Since there is no direct medicine for it, treatment focuses on easing the symptoms. Yet, a vaccine is available and is a must for people going to or living in regions with yellow fever.

Key Takeaways

  • Yellow fever spreads through the bite of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
  • Its symptoms range from fever, chills, and headaches to more severe jaundice.
  • The virus travels between mosquitoes and primates like humans mainly in Africa and South America.
  • Diagnosing it can be tough at first because its early signs are like other viral diseases.
  • Even though there’s no direct treatment, a vaccine exists and is crucial for those in risky areas.

Understanding Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a serious viral disease. It spreads through mosquito bites, mainly from the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This virus is in the same family as dengue, West Nile, and Zika.

What is Yellow Fever?

It’s a sickness that can be very dangerous. People with yellow fever might have high fever, chills, and achy muscles. They could also feel sick to their stomachs, throw up, and have yellow skin and eyes. This sickness gets its name from the yellow color the skin can turn.

Causes of Yellow Fever

Yellow fever comes from a virus spread by mosquitoes. When mosquitoes that carry the virus bite a person, they can get sick. Sometimes, people can also catch it by being near infected monkeys.

Symptoms of Yellow Fever

After someone is infected, it takes a few days for symptoms to show up. At first, they may have a fever, chills, and a headache. They might also feel pain in their back and be sick to their stomachs, throwing up. For some, the sickness can get very bad, leading to liver problems and bleeding inside the body. This can be deadly.

Transmission of Yellow Fever

Transmission of Yellow Fever

Yellow fever spreads mainly through mosquito bites, mainly from Aedes and Haemagogus. These mosquitoes pick up the yellow fever virus when they bite infected primates, which can include people. Then, they can transmit this virus to other primates. It’s crucial to know that the virus doesn’t move directly from person to person. It must go through mosquitoes to continue its life cycle.

How is Yellow Fever Spread?

The primary method of transmission for the yellow fever virus is from the bite of infected mosquitoes. These mosquitoes get the virus when they feed on primates, which also includes us, if we’re carrying the virus. When these mosquitoes bite other primates, they then spread the virus. This continues the spread of the disease.

Mosquito Vectors

Two types of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Haemagogus, are the key transmitters of the yellow fever virus. They are commonly found in tropical and subtropical parts of Africa and South America. These are the main areas where yellow fever is a known issue. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is especially good at spreading the virus in cities because it likes to be around people.

Transmission Cycles

There are two ways yellow fever is usually spread: the urban cycle and the sylvatic (or jungle) cycle. In the urban cycle, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread the virus among people in cities. This can lead to big outbreaks in areas with a lot of people. In the sylvatic cycle, the virus remains in the cycle between mosquitoes and primates in the wild. Humans can get the virus when they go into these endemic regions.

Transmission Cycle Description Mosquito Vector Reservoir Host
Urban Cycle Virus transmitted between infected humans in urban areas Aedes aegypti Humans
Sylvatic (Jungle) Cycle Virus maintained in a cycle between mosquitoes and primates in forested areas Haemagogus species Primates

Yellow Fever Virus

yellow fever virus

The yellow fever virus is part of the Flavivirus group. This group includes serious viruses like dengue, West Nile, and Zika. It spreads mainly through mosquitoes that are already infected.

Virus Classification

This virus is in the Flavivirus family, known for its tiny size and the viruses have a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA. Besides the yellow fever virus, this group also includes well-known diseases like the dengue virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and Zika virus.

Virus Structure and Characteristics

The yellow fever virus has a shape like an icosahedral capsid and an outer layer made from host cells. Inside, it has a single-stranded, positive-sense RNA that tells it how to function. This RNA gives instructions for making three structural proteins and seven nonstructural proteins. These are key for the virus to make copies, become new viruses, and spread.

A special protein on the virus’s outside helps it attach to new cells and mix with them. This virus entry and fusion step is very crucial. It also helps our bodies create an immune response against the virus. This is important for creating a vaccine against it.

This virus can adapt and change pretty fast. This is one reason why it can infect many different animals and people. This wide reach helps the virus survive and keep spreading in areas where it’s common.

Geographic Distribution

geographic distribution of yellow fever

Yellow fever is found mainly in Africa and South America. It spreads between mosquitoes and monkeys. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is key in passing the virus in these areas.

Endemic Areas in Africa

In Africa, countries south of the Sahara have yellow fever. This includes places like Senegal, Guinea, and Liberia. Yellow fever can spread through travelers and mosquitoes to other parts.

Endemic Areas in South America

In South America, yellow fever is in select countries including Bolivia and Brazil. The virus passes between monkeys and mosquitoes. From the jungle, outbreaks can reach cities, becoming a big health risk.

Vaccination is vital to stop yellow fever’s spread. Mosquito control and spotting cases early are also very important. This helps keep the disease from spreading in key areas.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing yellow fever early on is hard. This is because its symptoms, like fever and headache, are similar to other viruses. Doctors look at symptoms and if you have been to areas where yellow fever is common.

Diagnostic Methods for Yellow Fever

To confirm yellow fever, lab tests are done. These tests include ones that look for the virus’s genetic material. The CDC and WHO give doctors advice on which tests to use.

Also Read : Top Cancer Hospitals In India For Expert Care

Treatment Options

Currently, there is no special antiviral medicine for yellow fever. Doctors give patients supportive care to help manage symptoms. This care includes things like staying hydrated, managing pain and fever, and watching for serious complications like liver or kidney problems.

For very serious cases, patients might need to stay in the hospital. The best way to avoid yellow fever is by getting the vaccine.


Q: What is yellow fever and how is it transmitted?

A: Yellow fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the yellow fever virus. It is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes, primarily Aedes aegypti in urban areas and Haemagogus and Sabethes mosquitoes in the jungle.

Q: What are the signs and symptoms of yellow fever?

A: Symptoms of yellow fever include fever, muscle pain, headache, chills, loss of appetite, and nausea. In severe cases, patients may develop jaundice, bleeding, and organ failure.

Q: What is the risk of yellow fever?

A: The risk of yellow fever is highest in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America where the virus is endemic. Travelers to these regions are at risk of contracting the disease if not vaccinated.

Q: How can I prevent yellow fever?

A: The best way to prevent yellow fever is by getting vaccinated with the yellow fever vaccine. Additionally, you can reduce your risk by avoiding mosquito bites through the use of insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and sleeping under mosquito nets.

Q: Is there a specific treatment for yellow fever?

A: There is no specific antiviral treatment for yellow fever. Supportive care includes managing symptoms, providing fluids, and monitoring for complications. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.

Q: Are there outbreaks of yellow fever?

A: Yes, yellow fever outbreaks can occur when the virus is introduced into areas with high mosquito populations and low vaccination coverage. These outbreaks can lead to epidemics with a high number of cases and deaths.

Q: Do I need to vaccinate against yellow fever before traveling?

A: Many countries in Africa and South America require proof of yellow fever vaccination for travelers entering from regions with risk of yellow fever transmission. It is recommended to check the vaccination requirements before traveling.

Source Links