Yellow Fever (cont.)

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How is yellow fever diagnosed?

Because the symptoms during the initial phase of yellow fever are nonspecific and similar to a flu-like illness, diagnosis during this stage can be difficult. Therefore, the preliminary diagnosis is often made clinically based on the patient's signs and symptoms, the travel history (when and where), and the related travel activities.

Various blood test abnormalities may be present in individuals with yellow fever, particularly those who go on to develop the second toxic phase of the disease. Blood test abnormalities may include a low white blood cell count (leukopenia), a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia), elevations in liver function tests, abnormally prolonged blood clotting times, and abnormalelectrolyte and kidney function tests. Urine tests may demonstrate elevated levels of urinary protein and urobilinogen. An electrocardiogram (ECG) may reveal heart conduction or rhythm disturbances if cardiac involvement has occurred.

The laboratory diagnosis of yellow fever requires specialized testing. Blood tests may demonstrate the presence of virus-specific antibodies produced in response to the infection, though cross-reactivity with antibodies from other flaviviruses may occur, sometimes necessitating additional testing. A variety of other specialized laboratory techniques and tests may be used to identify and confirm the presence of the virus using blood, body fluids, or body-tissue samples.

What is the treatment for yellow fever?

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There is no specific curative treatment for yellow fever. Treatment is supportive and aimed at relieving the symptoms of the disease, including the pain and fever. As previously mentioned, the majority of patients who develop symptoms from yellow fever will experience a mild course of illness which will resolve on its own within three to four days.

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

  • oxygen administration,
  • intravenous fluid administration for dehydration,
  • medications to increase blood pressure in cases of circulatory collapse,
  • transfusion of blood products in cases of severe bleeding,
  • antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections,
  • dialysis for kidney failure,
  • endotracheal intubation (placement of a breathing tube) and mechanical ventilation in cases of respiratory distress.

Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided because of the increased risk of bleeding.

For the first few days of illness, infected individuals should also be isolated indoors and/or under mosquito netting in order to prevent further mosquito exposure, thus eliminating the potential for further transmission of the disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/16/2014

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Yellow Fever - Signs and Symptoms Question: What were the signs and symptoms that you, a friend, or relative experienced with yellow fever?
Yellow Fever - Risks Question: If you've traveled to a region at risk for yellow fever, did you get vaccinated beforehand? Discuss your experience.
Yellow Fever - Treatment Question: If you or someone you know had yellow fever, what medications and treatment were given?