Infectious Diseases A-Z: Yellow fever outbreak
How to Treat Yellow Fever
Yellow fever, though uncommon in U.S. travelers, is prevalent in much of South America and Africa. You can get yellow fever from the bite of an infected mosquito. The illness can be either mild or severe and life-threatening. There is no specific cure or treatment for yellow fever, but treating the virus consists of managing symptoms and avoiding serious complications. Whenever possible, preventing yellow fever is your best option.
Managing Symptoms of Yellow Fever
Consult your doctor about whether you should be hospitalized.There’s no medication that cures yellow fever, but there are ways to manage your symptoms to help prevent the condition from worsening. The virus may pass on its own, though symptoms can be unpleasant and sometimes severe.If you are diagnosed with yellow fever, talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be hospitalized. Hospitalization can increase survival rates.For some, the safest idea is to stay in the hospital for observation and supportive care, which can include:
- IV (intravenous) fluids
- Pain relievers
- Dialysis if you have kidney failure
- Monitoring your blood pressure
- Treating other infections or complications that arise
Gets lots of rest.If you have very mild symptoms, stay home and take care of yourself. Do not go to work or school until you are well. Stay in bed, relax, and rest – give your body time to recover and let the virus pass.
- If your symptoms worsen at all, seek medical care.
Stay hydrated.You can easily become dehydrated if you are vomiting or have a high fever. Be sure to replace your fluids and stay hydrated while you’re sick.On average, men should drink 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids daily, and women should drink 9 cups (2.2 liters) a day.Drink at least that when you’re ill, and more if you’re vomiting or feverish. Tea, juice, and water count towards your fluids.
Take acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever.Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an over-the-counter pain reliever and fever reducer. Take it to relieve symptoms as indicated on the bottle, or as directed by your doctor or pharmacist.
- Don’t take acetaminophen if you have severe liver disease.
- Because of the risk of bleeding when you have yellow fever, do not take medications that increase your risk of bleeding: aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen.
Prevent further mosquito bites.Avoid getting any more mosquito bites for at least 5 days from when you get a fever. This reduces the risk that uninfected mosquitoes will pick up the illness and spread it to others.
Recognizing and Diagnosing Yellow Fever
Discuss your travel history with your doctor.Yellow fever is present in some tropical and subtropical parts of Central and South America and Africa. If you live in or have travelled to any of the countries listed below, be wary of symptoms of yellow fever and alert your doctor:
- Countries in the Americas:Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela
- Countries in Africa:Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda
Check yourself for mosquito bites.You can only get yellow fever from mosquito bites, not from being around other people who have it. Think about your exposure to mosquitoes while in an endemic area. If you’re not sure whether you were bitten, check your body for itchy red bug bites.
- Illness usually occurs 3-6 days after you’re bitten by an infected mosquito.
Suspect yellow fever if you have flu-like symptoms.Many people never get symptoms from yellow fever. Those who do, however, experience symptoms similar to a bad flu. Symptoms can include sudden fever, chills, severe headache, body aches, back pain, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, dizziness, and weakness.
- Other less common symptoms of yellow fever include sensitivity to lightor red eyes, tongue, or face.
- High fever, jaundice, and bleeding are severe symptoms, and they might cause shock and multiple organ failure, which can be deadly. If you develop severe symptoms, get immediate medical attention.
Visit your doctor for testing.Diagnosis of yellow fever is based on your symptoms, travel history, a physical exam, and a blood test.See your doctor if you’ve travelled somewhere with yellow fever and have any symptoms of yellow fever. Accurate diagnosis is important so you know you have yellow fever and not something else, and so you can seek supportive care.
Be alert for the recurrence of more serious symptoms.About 15% of people infected with yellow fever will progress to more serious symptoms, including possible heart, liver, and kidney failure. This toxic stage usually occurs after your initial symptoms improve for several hours to a day. If you experience any of the following, go to the hospital to be monitored and prevent serious complications:
- High fever (over 103°F/39.4°C)
- Jaundice (yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes)
- Bleeding (hemorrhaging) – you may have abdominal pain and vomit blood, or you may bleed from your nose, mouth or eyes
- Urinating less than usual
- Slow heart rate
- Seizures, delirium, or coma
Preventing Yellow Fever in Endemic Areas
Get vaccinated.Get the yellow fever vaccine if you live in, or are travelling to, the parts of South America or Africa where yellow fever is present. The vaccine is approved for people over 9 months old. Get the vaccine at specific centers that provide it, which you can find through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) .
- Some countries require that you get the vaccine or a booster dose in order to travel there. If you’ll be travelling, check the CDC’s .
- Ask your doctor whether it’s safe for you to get the vaccine if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, over 60 years old, or have HIV without symptoms.
- Do NOT get the vaccine if you’re allergic to any part of it, have symptomatic HIV or other immune system disorders, have cancer, or are taking immunosuppressant drugs or recently had a transplant.
Use insect repellent.Avoid mosquito bites to prevent transmission of yellow fever. Any time you are outdoors in an area that has yellow fever, wear EPA-registered (Environmental Protection Agency) insect repellent on any uncovered skin.Reapply the repellent if you start to get mosquito bites. Apply it as directed on the container.
- Use repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus for best protection.
- Don’t put repellent over cuts or wounds, or into your eyes. Wash off repellent with soapy water when you go indoors.
- It’s safe to use insect repellent on children. However, do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under 3 years old.
Wear protective clothing.Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks when outdoors. Spray insect repellent that contains permethrin over your clothes to deter mosquitoes from biting through the fabric. You can also purchase clothing that is pretreated with permethrin – a repellent you can use over clothes but not directly on your skin.
Protect yourself throughout the day and night.Though many mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn, one type of mosquito that transmits yellow fever is also active during the day. Protect yourself around the clock by wearing repellent and appropriate clothing any time you’re outdoors. When possible, sleep in an air-conditioned room with closed or screened windows, or under a mosquito net.
Video: Yellow Fever ¦ Treatment and Symptoms
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