The Yellow Fever

The yellow fever virus is transmitted by the bite of female mosquitoes (the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and other species) and is found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa, but not in Asia. The only known hosts of the virus are primates and several species of mosquito. The origin of the disease is most likely to be Africa, from where it was introduced to South America through the slave trade in the 16th century. Since the 17th century, several major epidemics of the disease have been recorded in the Americas, Africa and Europe. In the 19th century, yellow fever was deemed one of the most dangerous infectious diseases.

Yellow fever presents in most cases with fever, nausea, and pain and it generally subsides after several days. In some patients, a toxic phase follows, in which liver damage with jaundice (giving the name of the disease) can occur and lead to death. Because of the increased bleeding tendency (bleeding diathesis), yellow fever belongs to the group of hemorrhagic fevers. The WHO estimates that yellow fever causes 200,000 illnesses and 30,000 deaths every year in unvaccinated populations; around 90% of the infections occur in Africa.

A safe and effective vaccine against yellow fever has existed since the middle of the 20th century and some countries require vaccinations for travelers. Since no therapy is known, vaccination programs are, along with measures to reduce the population of the transmitting mosquito, of great importance in affected areas. Since the 1980s, the number of cases of yellow fever has been increasing, making it a reemerging disease.