Overview – What is it?
Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name, refers to the jaundice that some people get when they are infected with the fever. Jaundice, headache and nausea are some of the symptoms people with yellow fever experience.
A blood sample is tested to diagnose a person with yellow fever and since the disease is not curable, the treatment involves managing the symptoms and helping the immune system to fight the virus. The best way to prevent yourself from getting infected with the virus is by getting vaccinated.
Causes – What causes it?
When a person is infected with yellow fever, it can take 3-6 days for the symptoms to start manifesting. These symptoms include:
- Muscle and back pains
- Eyes being sensitive to light
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pains
- General body weakness
After the acute phase, the symptoms may disappear for up to 24 hours then return in an even more serious form. These symptoms include
- Delirium (being in a disturbed state of mind bringing about illusions and restlessness)
- Bleeding from the eyes, mouth and nose
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased urination
- Vomiting sometimes with traces of blood
- Heart rhythm problems
- Traces of blood in the stool
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
- Initial consultation: An initial consultation with a doctor for the doctor to get to know the symptoms you have, and for the doctor to also know whether you have travelled to places where yellow fever is prevalent.
- Blood test: For the doctor to confirm whether you are suffering from yellow fever, a sample of your blood is tested to check for the presence of the yellow fever virus. This test can also indicate abnormalities in the blood such as low white blood cell count, low platelet count and prolonged blood clotting time.
Other tests that can be done are as follows:
- Urine test: This test is used to check for increased levels of urinary protein and urobilinogen.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This is used to check the conduction and rhythm of the heart.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
Yellow fever has no cure. However, the symptoms can be managed, and the body’s immune system assisted to fight off the infection. These can be done through:
- Maintaining a healthy blood pressure using medicine to increase blood pressure
- Getting a blood transfusion in case of severe bleeding
- Administration of oxygen
- Getting fluids through the veins to rehydrate the body after dehydration caused by vomiting
- Having dialysis if the kidney fails
- Getting treated for other infections using antibiotics
- Using breathing tubes and mechanical ventilation when a person in experiencing trouble breathing.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
The best way to prevent yourself from getting infected with yellow fever is by getting vaccinated. The other ways through which you can protect yourself are by:
- Finding out whether you need new vaccinations when you are travelling to a new place, especially if it is a yellow fever prevalent area.
- Avoiding mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing and getting screened regularly if you live in places where yellow fever is common.
- Applying mosquito repellent to exposed parts of the skin.
- Sleeping under a treated mosquito net.
- Ensuring that you drain any stagnant water and that there are no puddles of water, containers or tyres that can hold stagnant water around the house, to reduce the chance of mosquitoes breeding and increasing in number.