Why It Is Called “Yellow Fever”

man sick wet towel forehead

See the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Yellow Fever

Just like malaria, yellow fever is a disease that spreads through the bite of mosquitos. The kind of mosquito that causes yellow fever is known as the Aedes mosquito. This breed of mosquito also transmits other deadly diseases like the zika virus and dengue fever. It has, over the years, been classified as a highly deadly disease that is similar to flu. The major characteristics of yellow fever are high fever which it is known for, as well as severe jaundice. Jaundice can be described as the yellowing of the eyes and skin. Jaundice being a major characteristic of yellow fever, is what earned the fever the “yellow” attached to it. The obvious symptom of yellow fever is the turning of the eyes and skin of its victim into a sickly, pale yellow color. In other words, yellow fever got its name from its jaundice symptom.

Yellow fever is induced by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. When the mosquito attacks an infected person and bites a human, the human gets infected with yellow fever. Though it cannot be spread from person to person. An outbreak can only occur when infected mosquitoes bite a lot of people. The transmission is between monkeys and humans, with the transmitter being the Aedes mosquito.

Yellow fever has vaccines. These vaccines have been able to reduce the prevalence of yellow fever, especially in continents like Africa, where the risks are high. Yellow fever is not the regular fever that you encounter or see people suffer from. This is because, at a young age, every child is immunized against it. This act reduces its occurrence by a huge percentage.

However, even if you contract it eventually, it is not a death sentence. Yellow fever, though not curable, has certain treatment measures for managing the symptoms until they disappear. It is also preventable, and sticking to the treatment plan helps relieve symptoms and eliminate the fever in a matter of days. Also, adhering to preventive measures helps reduce its occurrence to the barest minimum.

Being a hemorrhagic health condition, it can lead to events like bleeding through the holes of the skin without any wounds. It can also lead to other cells and organ damages like liver and kidney diseases. These events occur when the fever becomes complicated or gets ignored for a long time without adequate medical treatment. The mild symptoms include the yellowing of the eyes and the skin.

Medical practitioners have classified yellow fever as an acute and systemic disease. This means that upon contracting it, you begin to feel symptoms almost immediately. The disease starts suddenly and affects the whole body at once.

According to discoveries by the World Health Organization, there were about 60,000 yellow fever fatalities in 2013 and 84,000 severe cases. In addition, the record holds that over two-thirds of the death and severe cases of yellow fever occurred in Africa.

How It Is Transmitted?

It is transmitted through the Aedes mosquito. When the mosquito bites a monkey that carries the fever and that same mosquito bites a human, yellow fever occurs. This can also lead to an outbreak when the mosquito bites more people. However, once a person has been immunized against it, the outbreak level would reduce, and such a person would not contract the disease. This is why a great number of countries do not allow migrants and visitors into the country if they do not present their yellow fever vaccine certificates first.

deadly insectTransmission occurs easily in areas that are close to the jungle, where there are infected monkeys. Africa is the most affected continent as the majority of the countries in it are still developing, and a wide range of landmass is still covered by jungles and natural wildlife.

In addition, yellow fever cannot be transmitted from person to person. Infected mosquitoes do the job of spreading the disease.


Sometimes, at the onset of yellow fever, symptoms are usually mild. Since the incubation period lasts between 3 to 6 days, symptoms begin to occur 3 to 6 days after infection. The common symptoms of yellow fever include very high temperature, hemorrhage, jaundice, albuminuria, congestion of the face.

The symptoms of yellow fever have been categorized into two stages known as the acute stage and the toxic stage.

Acute Stage

The acute stage comes with symptoms like;

  • Joint and muscle pain, especially in the knee and in the back
  • Dizziness
  • High fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Headache

These symptoms are sometimes mild, and they improve or disappear within 7 and 10 days. About 20% of infected people move to the second stage of toxicity, which can be life-threatening.

Toxic Stage

This is the severe stage of yellow fever. This is the stage where vital internal organs get damaged. Its symptoms include;

  • Vomiting, with bloodstains sometimes.
  • Kidney failure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Recurring fever
  • Liver failure
  • Bleeding through the holes of the skin, nose, and mouth
  • Jaundice
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Hemorrhage
  • Seizures
  • Sometimes coma
  • Irregular heartbeats

These symptoms are so critical that they can lead to the death of the victim within two weeks. Majority of the people who get to the toxic stage experience fatalities, while those who recover from the fever rarely have organ damages.

Causes and Risk Factors

The virus that is transmitted from monkeys to humans through mosquito bites is called the flavivirus. When an infected monkey is bitten by an Aedes mosquito, the Aedes mosquito becomes a source of infection and a transmitter of the virus to humans for the rest of its life. When it (the infected mosquito) bites humans, the human gets infected. The more people it bites, the more infected people. This cycle, however, leads to an outbreak.

Flavivirus is an endemic that is common among monkeys. These monkeys live in jungles, especially in many parts of Africa and America. People who travel to places where the cases are prevalent can contract the disease. This is why travelers are advised to read up about places they are traveling to and get a vaccine to prevent them from contracting diseases, especially diseases like yellow fever.

Other risk factors include;

People who were infected in the jungle that come over to the community of people may be a factor.

Who is More At Risk?

People who were not vaccinated

People who live in places that are populated by monkeys and mosquitoes. Some of these areas include;

  • Colombia
  • Brazil
  • Peru
  • Ecuador
  • Bolivia


waterResearch is still ongoing on the treatment of yellow fever. There is no known cure for it. However, there are certain treatment methods that can be administered to help relieve symptoms and manage the disease, as well as prevent the migration of symptoms from the acute stage to the toxic stage. These management methods include;

  • Getting enough oxygen
  • Treating other infections that develop in the course of the disease
  • Treating organ damages that ensue during the illness. For instance, going for dialysis if kidney failure is noticed.
  • Staying hydrated and supplying the body with plenty of fluids
  • Monitoring of blood pressure
  • Getting blood transfusion as a result of the loss of blood through the skin holes, nose, and mouth.


  • The most effective prevention therapy for yellow fever is getting the vaccine. With the vaccine, your chances of developing the virus would be quite low. The vaccine is made up of some weakened and live versions of the virus. These properties help the body create immunity against the disease. However, a group of people is advised to avoid the vaccine as it can incur certain ugly side effects. This group of people includes;
  • People who have allergies to animal meats and animal produces like milk and eggs.
  • Infants who are younger than the age of 6 months should not get the vaccine.
  • People with illnesses that jeopardize the immune system and its functions should not take the vaccine.
  • In addition, travelers above the age of 60 should consider taking the vaccine if they are traveling to areas that are highly yellow-fever-risky.

In conclusion, yellow fever is a deadly and life-threatening disease that is caused by a virus known as a flavivirus, which is usually transmitted from infected monkeys to humans through the Aedes mosquito. Yellow fever does not have any known cure. However, a number of management methods have been put in place to ease and manage symptoms and prevent complications. Most importantly, vaccination against the fever would help prevent the cases and reduce its occurrence.