Yellow Fever

  • Medical Author:
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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How do health-care professionals diagnose yellow fever?

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 abnormal electrolyte and kidney function tests. None of these test results are specific to yellow fever and alone allow the health-care provider to make a diagnosis. 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 (IgM and IgG) produced in response to the infection, though cross-reactivity with antibodies from other flaviviruses may occur. Therefore, specific antibody testing, such as a plaque reduction neutralization test, may be done for confirmation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016

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