How To Prevent Traveling Infections

Preventing Yellow Fever

The yellow fever vaccination is your first line of defense against contracting  the infection.

You will begin showing symptoms of yellow fever about three to six days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. These symptoms include fever, chills, backache, nausea, headache, and vomiting. Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, is the hallmark of the infection and gives it its name.

Most people recover from yellow fever in three to four days. In more severe cases, the virus might cause bleeding, heart problems, liver or kidney failure, or brain dysfunction. Yellow fever can be fatal. People with the disease may be able to ease their symptoms, but there is no specific medical treatment.

The Culprit

Yellow fever is caused by the yellow fever virus, which is spread by infected Aedes mosquitoes.

Who's at Risk?

Yellow fever occurs only in Africa and South America, so only travelers who are destined for these regions need to be concerned about it. The World Health Organization estimates there are 200,000 cases of yellow fever every year (although the organization says the vast majority of cases are not reported), and 30,000 of those cases are fatal. The elderly are at highest risk of developing the most severe symptoms of the infection.

Defensive Measures

If you are traveling to high-risk areas of sub-Saharan Africa or tropical South America, you can take some precautions to help keep yellow fever at bay. First, and most importantly, you should get a yellow fever vaccination. Talk with your physician about the vaccine at least two weeks before you travel. The vaccine is only available at authorized locations; call your local health department or visit to find the one nearest you.

The traveling infections you've read about here -- cholera, hookworms, dengue, malaria, diarrhea, typhoid and yellow fever -- are not as prevalent now in the developed world as they were hundreds of years ago, but they can still ruin your vacation, or worse. So study up on traveling diseases and know how to protect yourself.


Laurie L. Dove is an award winning Kansas-based journalist and author whose work has been published internationally. A dedicated consumer advocate, Dove specializes in writing about health, parenting, fitness and travel. An active member of the National Federation of Press Women, Dove also is the former owner of a parenting magazine and a weekly newspaper.


Dr. Larry Lutwick is a Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York - Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, New York and Director of Infectious Diseases, Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Health Care System, Brooklyn Campus.  He is also Bacterial Diseases Moderator for the real time online infectious diseases surveillance system, Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED-mail) and has authored more than 100 medical articles and 15 book chapters. He has edited two books on infectious diseases.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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