Demystifying yellow fever when traveling

If you anticipate traveling to a tropical zone in a Latin American or an African country, vaccination against yellow fever will probably be a requirement in the countries you will be visiting. Protecting oneself against yellow fever by a vaccine should be carried out at least 10 days before your departure in order to be effective. Yellow fever is a disease caused by the Amaril virus which is transmitted from a bite of an infected mosquito. It takes its name from the yellowing of the skin and eyes which occurs when the virus attacks the liver.

Yellow fever is endemic in several countries. To be admitted to their territories, certain countries therefore require the presentation of an international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. According to WHO, every year yellow fever affects around 200 000 people and will be the cause of 30 000 deaths. During the preparation of your trip, check if a yellow fever vaccination is necessary.

How does one identify the symptoms of yellow fever?

Yellow fever is a virus which, like malaria, is transmitted from bites by mosquitoes carrying the virus. These infected mosquitoes, of the Aedes and Haemogogus types, are responsible for the transmission of the disease. They normally bite during the day, especially at sunrise and sunset.

After an incubation of seven days on average, the first symptoms of yellow fever will manifest. The body becomes feverish. Muscular pain, shivers and headaches are felt by the person who has contracted the disease. These symptoms are similar to other viral-type infections. In its early stages, it is difficult to diagnose yellow fever. In severe cases, yellow fever evolves to a second phase which can be fatal. Acute symptoms are vomiting, a yellow complexion, hemorrhagic syndrome or even kidney problems.

Where does yellow fever strike?

Africa is the continent most affected presenting each year more cases of infection. The disease also occurs in South America. In total, there are 44 countries in which more or less elevated risk of yellow fever transmission is identified.

Endemic zones in Africa: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Togo.

Endemic zones in South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guiana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.

Vaccination against yellow fever

Vaccination is currently the best means of protecting oneself against yellow fever. The centers for vaccination against yellow fever have been designated by the Public Health Agency of Canada for Canada in order to satisfy the requirements of the International Health Regulations (IHR).

It is recommended to renew the vaccination every 10 years. The yellow fever vaccination is not recommended for children under 9 months, pregnant women, people with serious immune-deficiencies and people with serious allergies to egg protein.

International certificate of vaccination

Customs authorities in certain African countries require every traveler to present an International certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis upon arrival, which is valid for 10 years. This certificate is issued when you are vaccinated against yellow fever.

Currently, 20 countries that systematically require proof of yellow fever vaccination are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, French Guiana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tomé and Principe, Sierra Leone and Togo.

In several other countries, travelers from countries where a risk of yellow fever transmission already exists must also provide an International certificate of vaccination.

To see what an International certificate of vaccination looks like, find the document provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.