Symptoms and Signs of Yellow Fever

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/19/2021

Doctor's Notes on Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a viral hemorrhagic infection transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus. Yellow fever is found in the equatorial tropics. 

Early symptoms of yellow fever may be similar to malariadengue fever, or other viral hemorrhagic fevers. Symptoms may include:

  • sudden high fever,
  • chills,
  • prominent backache and headache,
  • appetite loss, 
  • nausea or vomiting, and
  • occasionally a slow heartbeat.

About 15% of patients will develop a second, more severe stage of illness with symptoms including:

  • high fever, 
  • abdominal pain,
  • nausea and vomiting, and
  • development of jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes).

Other symptoms may include:

  • spontaneous bruises and bleeding due to abnormal blood coagulation from the eyes, nose, mouth, needle puncture sites, as well as upper and lower gastrointestinal tract with blood in vomit and stool
  • abnormal blood levels of liver enzymes, and
  • kidney failure.

What Is the Treatment for Yellow Fever?

There is no treatment available that can cure yellow fever. Treatment is supportive and directed at relieving the symptoms of the disease. Most people who do develop symptoms from yellow fever will experience mild illness that will resolve on its own.

Supportive treatment measures depend on the severity of the disease, and may include:

  • Intravenous fluid for dehydration
  • Oxygen administration or mechanical ventilation for respiratory failure
  • Medications to support blood pressure
  • Blood product transfusions
  • Dialysis for kidney failure
  • Antibiotics for any secondary infections

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.