Yellow fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever that has caused severe illness and death throughout human history. Yellow fever was a mysterious condition that primarily affected tropical regions in Africa, the Caribbean, and America from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The disease, however, is frequently confused with malaria. Therefore, this article summarizes the clinical features, similarities, and differences between the two conditions, as well as the management of yellow fever.
What are the clinical features of yellow fever?
Yellow fever has three distinct stages. These are the infection phase, the remission phase, and the intoxication phase. Feeling uneasy, headaches, body aches, weakness, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, irritability, and dizziness characterise the infection period. Symptoms usually subside during the second stage. Around 20 to 50% of patients progress to phase 3, which is characterized by the recurrence of signs and symptoms such as high fever, nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, jaundice, oliguria, hemorrhagic diathesis, and a possible organ failure. It has been observed that those who enter Phase 3 usually do not survive.
Is malaria different from yellow fever?
Yes. Yellow fever and malaria are two distinct conditions. Yellow fever is a viral and non-contagious disease caused by the yellow fever virus, an arbovirus. Malaria, on the other hand, is parasitic in nature. Yellow fever mosquitoes are found in Africa and in South America’s tropics and subtropics. Mosquitoes become infectious carriers when they bite virus-infected primates. It should be noted that the mosquitoes that cause malaria are not the same as those that transmit yellow fever. Furthermore, yellow fever has a preventive vaccine, whereas malaria vaccine trials are still ongoing.
How are yellow fever and malaria related?
Yellow fever and malaria share a few characteristics. To begin with, they are both spread by mosquitoes. Second, they have a fever and other flu-like symptoms. Finally, they can both cause jaundice, severe illness, and even death.
What is the treatment for yellow fever?
First and foremost, travel history to Africa or South America is important in determining the presence of yellow fever. However, since no specific antiviral therapy is currently available, care for yellow fever patients is primarily supportive. Rest, fluids, prescribed painkillers, and antipyretics as early interventions could improve the patient’s condition. Please keep in mind that self-prescribed medications such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could increase the risk of bleeding and should always be avoided.
Is yellow fever preventable?
Yes. Vaccination, given to patients nine months of age and older, is the most effective and safe way to prevent yellow fever. It provides effective immunity to 99% of patients within 30 days. The World Health Organization recommends a single dose for most travelers. However, those who were pregnant at the time of vaccination, had a stem cell transplant, intended to spend an extended period of time in endemic areas, or worked regularly in labs with yellow fever samples should consider a booster immunization. The vaccine is not recommended for nursing mothers. In addition, the CDC advises using insect repellent and protective clothing, along with vaccination, to avoid yellow fever transmission through mosquito bites.
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