Yellow Fever

What is yellow fever?

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms take 3 to 6 days to develop and include fever, chills, headache, backache, and muscle aches. About 15% of people who get yellow fever develop serious illness that can lead to bleeding, shock, organ failure, and sometimes death.

Who is at risk?

Travelers to certain parts of South America and Africa are at risk for yellow fever.

What can travelers do to prevent yellow fever?

Get a yellow fever vaccine

  • Travelers can protect themselves from yellow fever by getting yellow fever vaccine. In rare cases, the yellow fever vaccine can have serious and sometimes fatal side effects.
  • People older than 60 years and people with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk of developing side effects from the vaccine. Also, there are special concerns for pregnant and nursing women. Talk to your travel medicine provider about whether you should get the vaccine.
  • If the yellow fever vaccine is recommended or required, get the vaccine at least 10 days before your trip.
  • After receiving the vaccine, you will receive a signed and stamped International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP, sometimes called the “yellow card”), which you must bring with you on your trip.
  • Some countries require all travelers to show proof of yellow fever vaccination before they can enter the country. Other countries require proof of vaccination only if travelers have been in a risk area, so if you are visiting multiple countries, the order of travel may be important. Proof of vaccination is not valid until 10 days after you get the vaccine, so plan to get the vaccine early if you need it.

Note: The Centers for Disease Controls's (CDC’s) recommendation is different from the country’s requirement. A vaccine recommendation is designed to keep you from getting yellow fever. A vaccine requirement is the country’s attempt to keep travelers from bringing the yellow fever virus into the country. The CDC does not have any control over other countries’ vaccine requirements or how they are enforced.

Prevent mosquito bites

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. For more information, see Mosquito Safety/Vector Avoidance.

Page reviewed on: Mar 09, 2017

Page reviewed by: Jessie L. Leyse, MD