What is yellow fever?


When the Europeans began importing African slaves they brought yellow fever, which is also known as "yellow jack" to the Americas. The illness ripped through the colonies, decimating people living on farms and even in major cities.

When Napoleon sent an army of 33,000 to France's landholdings in North America, the disease killed 29,000 of those soldiers-shocking Napoleon so much that he decided the territory was not worth the risk of additional losses. France sold the territory to the United States in 1803; a transaction recorded in history as the Louisiana Purchase.

Yellow fever spreads from person to person through feeding mosquitoes. Its typical symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, backache and vomiting. Symptoms can range from mild to deadly. Severe infections can lead to shock, bleeding, liver and kidney failure. When the liver fails it causes jaundice or yellowing of the skin, which gives the illness its name.

Despite better mosquito management, the use of vaccinations and improved treatment procedures, epidemics of the illness continue even to this day in Africa and South America.

Yellow fever is an illness that results from being bitten by a mosquito infected with a flavivirus. Symptoms begin about 3-6 days after a bite. Infection occurs mainly in South America and Africa. Symptoms may include fever, body aches, nausea, vomiting, constipation, restlessness, extreme fatigue, liver failure (which causes yellow skin), bleeding, and possibly death. Treatment is limited to symptom relief only; there is no definitive cure. Often, people will begin to feel better, then relapse within 24 hours. Yellow fever can be prevented with a vaccine in combination with measures to avoid mosquito bites when traveling to infected areas.

Continue Learning about Viral Infections

Viral Infections

Viral Infections

Viral infections like herpes simplex, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), chicken pox and rotavirus are infections caused by a virus instead of a bacterium. Viral infections do not respond to antibiotics, but some specific viruses ...

like influenza A and B can be treated with certain antiviral medications. Most commonly, treatment for viral infections includes drinking lots of fluids, getting rest, eating well and letting the illness run its course.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.