Three Reasons to Get Vaccinated for Yellow Fever
Headed on a trip, but unsure what vaccinations you should get before you go? All the recommendations and requirements can be confusing at first, but checking the listings on the Center for Disease Control and scheduling a consult with a travel health doctor at a specialized travel clinic are good places to start. If you are headed to a tropical or subtropical region of South America or Africa, you may be exposed to yellow fever, a virus spread by contact with some species of primates as well as the bite of female mosquitos. It can be dangerous, so if you’re traveling to an area where the disease is prevalent, here are three good reasons to get vaccinated.
1. This disease is incurable, potentially fatal. Symptoms of the virus initially include fever, nausea and general body pain, which wane after several days. Some patients then enter a toxic phase in which liver damage occurs, and may lead to death. Jaundice, the yellow hue many patients acquire in the advanced stages of liver failure is the reason for “yellow” in the name “yellow fever.” Yellow fever also puts patients at an increased risk of bleeding, and so is categorized as a hemorrhagic fever. (Other diseases classified as hemorrhagic fevers include Lassa virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic virus, Ebola, dengue, and several types of encephalitis.) Symptoms of this increased bleeding risk include internal bleeding, vomiting blood, and arrhythmic heartbeats. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 30,000 deaths annually, and besides the preventative vaccine there is no known therapy or cure.
2. Yellow fever is on the rise. Several historic epidemics of the virus have been reported to have swept across the Americas, Africa and Europe, particularly in the 1800s, when it was considered one of the most deadly diseases around. However, since the 1980s the number of cases reported has been increasing again-likely because of land disturbances and population shifts due to unrest in risk-prone regions-causing worldwide health authorities to classify yellow fever as a reemerging disease.
3. This vaccination is required for entry into certain countries. Countries that currently require proof of immunization for all travelers older than the age of one are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, French Guiana, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Additionally, many other countries have policies that dictate requirements based on a traveler’s departure country, or whether the traveler has passed through a yellow fever risk country (or in some cases even its airport) before arriving at their destination. The Center for Disease Control’s website also hosts a comprehensive list of countries’ requirements for proof of immunization before entry. When you get vaccinated, your travel health provider will issue you an internationally accepted proof of immunization certificate, which is valid for ten years. In countries mandating vaccination, your vaccination certification will be just as important as your passport when it comes to admission through customs, so don’t forget it!