If you’re considering a vacation in the tropics, you probably already know that you’ll need a few vaccinations to stay safe during your travels. Warmer weather creates an appealing environment for bacteria, viruses, and disease-causing parasites unfamiliar to us in more temperate climates. One illness you’ll need to watch out for in these warmer regions is yellow fever, a disease that kills over 30,000 people each year and for which there is no cure or effective treatment.
What Is Yellow Fever and Where Is It Common?
Similar to other tropical diseases like dengue fever and malaria, yellow fever is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, specifically the Aedes Aegypti species. Yellow fever develops between three and six days after the bite, but many of those infected will show no symptoms at all.
Those that develop a mild form of the illness can have a fever, headache, severe chills, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or overall weakness. If it progresses to a more severe form, the infected person will usually feel better for a few days before getting a more intense fever and jaundice of the skin and eyes (where the name yellow fever comes from), followed by organ failure and finally death.
Here in the West, yellow fever is virtually unheard of, or at least it has been for the past century or so. Before 1905, the last year that the U.S. had a major outbreak, yellow fever killed tens of thousands of people, mostly around the Gulf Coast. Thanks to mosquito population control measures like draining swamps, spraying pesticides, and then in the 1950s, a vaccine, yellow fever has been all but eradicated in the U.S.
Now, yellow fever is only endemic to two regions of the world –– Sub-Saharan Africa and the Amazon Basin in South America. If you’re traveling to a country in one of these regions, a yellow fever vaccine may be recommended or even required.
Do I Need a Yellow Fever Vaccine?
That depends on where you’re traveling. Yellow fever is endemic (present in the area) in many countries in Central and South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Often, you may be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination to be allowed to enter these countries, especially if you have just visited another yellow fever endemic country.
Even if a yellow fever vaccine is not required for entry, you may need one if you are visiting areas of risk. Spending a lot of time outdoors or traveling during the rainy season will increase the risk of yellow fever. Your travel health specialist is the best person to assess your risk and is up to date with the latest country-specific requirements.
The vaccine is not without side effects either; between 10% and 30% of travelers may experience flu-like symptoms after receiving their shot. However, the vaccine provides nearly 100% immunity and also provides you with peace of mind should your travels take you to a higher-risk area.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Yellow Fever Vaccine
Where Can I Get a Yellow Fever Vaccine? Yellow Fever Vaccine Locations
Yellow fever is endemic in just a few places, so most travelers won’t need to be vaccinated against it. It’s also a live virus vaccine with special considerations for handling and administration. Your primary care physician is unlikely to have access to the yellow fever vaccine, as they’re only administered at official CDC-certified vaccination centers, typically designated travel clinics and county health clinics.
If you live in Arizona, TravelBug Health in Scottsdale is one of the best places to get a yellow fever vaccine. Our travel medicine specialists will have the most up-to-date information about where yellow fever is present and the level of risk your trip might present.
How Much Does the Yellow Fever Vaccine Cost?
The yellow fever vaccine contains a live, albeit attenuated virus, which initiates a stronger immune response than vaccines containing an inactivated virus, such as seasonal flu shots. For this reason alone, you’ll need a consultation with a qualified travel medicine specialist who will review your medical history and weigh the potential impact of those side effects.
TravelBug Health offers the yellow fever vaccine for $250. The vaccine is administered during our comprehensive travel consultation ($75 for the first patient, discounted if there is more than one traveler) during which we will go over your medical history and other important information about your travel destination.
Does Insurance Cover the Yellow Fever Vaccine?
As with many vaccines needed for travel, most medical insurance will not pay for the yellow fever vaccine. Yellow fever is not endemic to the United States and is not considered medically necessary. You’ll need to pay the full cost of the vaccine and any consultation fees.
How Long Does the Yellow Fever Vaccine Last?
Up until 2016, boosters were required every ten years to ensure immunity against yellow fever. However, with decades of vaccine data to draw on, the CDC now recommends only a single dose to achieve lifetime immunity for travelers.
How To Prevent Yellow Fever
In addition to the vaccine, it is extremely important to practice insect bite precautions to prevent getting yellow fever and other insect-borne diseases, including malaria which is usually also present in yellow fever endemic areas.
- Wear DEET-containing Insect Repellent
- Avoid Outdoor Activities at Dawn and Dusk
- Wear Long Sleeves and Pants
- Treat Your Clothing With Permethrin
- Book Accommodations With Air Conditioning or Bed Nets
Protect Yourself With a Yellow Fever Vaccine from TravelBug Health
The chances of contracting yellow fever are exceedingly low if you aren’t traveling to one of the dozen or so countries where it’s endemic. However, if you are traveling to one of them, the yellow fever vaccine is incredibly effective and provides lifetime immunity against the virus.
Yellow fever is only one of the many diseases that may infect travelers. With the help of a travel medicine specialist, you can minimize the risk of contracting them while exploring the globe. TravelBug Health can provide you with a comprehensive pre-travel health consultation to assist you in understanding these risks and how to mitigate them while you’re abroad.
Contact TravelBug Health today to learn more!