The Return of Yellow Fever

With so much of the media's attention fixed on the Zika virus, you might be surprised to learn that another mosquito-borne virus has global health and infectious diseases experts more than a little bit concerned. Yellow fever, another mosquito-delivered disease, and one you probably thought contained following famous epidemics in the 18th and 19th centuries, is back, and the Center For Disease Control has cautioned us to be wary.

The most recent outbreak began in early December in Luanda, the capital of Angola. The first cases were officially diagnosed in January. As of April 26, there have been more than 2,000, including nearly 260 deaths. Travelers from Angola have carried the disease to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Morocco, and China.

Yellow fever is in fact from the same family as Zika, which also includes dengue fever, West Nile virus, and chikungunya among its number. It is most commonly found in the tropical and subtropical regions of South America and Africa.

Most people who are infected with yellow fever will be but mildly symptomatic. In fact, only 15 percent of those infected will develop serious, life-threatening complications. Those people get a high fever, bleeding, shock, and organ failure. Their skin and the whites of the eyes become jaundiced, the yellowing that gives the disease its name. The CDC estimates that up to 50 percent of people with the more severe form of yellow fever die of the disease.

Yellow fever's symptoms include:

·         Fever

·         Chills

·         Severe headache

·         Back pain and body aches

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Fatigue

·         Weakness

If you are traveling to an area where yellow fever is known to occur, see a doctor to determine whether you need the vaccine. If you are returning from an affected area, and you are symptomatic, see a doctor immediately. 

Yellow fever is easily diagnosed through a blood test. If you are confirmed to have the disease, but your symptoms are mild, your doctor will likely treat you as an out-patient. More severe symptoms will dictate hospitalization. In either case, your doctor will only be treating the symptoms, as there is no cure for the disease.