Yellow fever: Overview, Causes

Definition

Yellow fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Yellow fever is caused by a small virus that is spread by the bite of mosquitoes. This disease is common in South America and in sub-Saharan Africa.

Anyone can get yellow fever, but the elderly have a higher risk of severe infection. If a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms usually develop 3 – 6 days later.

Yellow fever has three stages:

  1. Early stage: Headache, muscle and joint aches, fever, flushing, loss of appetite, vomiting, and jaundice are common. After approximately 3 – 4 days, often symptoms go away briefly (remission).
  2. Period of remission: After 3 – 4 days, fever and other symptoms go away. Most people will recover at this stage, but others may move onto the third, most dangerous stage (intoxication stage) within 24 hours.
  3. Period of intoxication: Multi-organ dysfunction occurs. This may include heart, liver, and kidney failure, bleeding disorders, hemorrhage, and brain dysfunction including delirium, seizures, coma, shock, and death.

Review Date : 12/1/2009
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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