Planning a trip to South America or Africa? Find out if yellow fever vaccine is needed at your destination and plan ahead to get it. Only a limited number of clinics in the United States have the vaccine. Yellow fever vaccine is the best protection against yellow fever disease, which can be fatal.
Yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa. Currently, there is a large, ongoing outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil, including areas close to popular destinations, like the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. A number of unvaccinated international travelers have gotten yellow fever, and several have died (none were from the United States).
What is yellow fever?
Yellow fever is caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms of yellow fever (fever, chills, headache, backache, and muscle aches) take 3–6 days to develop. About 15% of people who get yellow fever develop serious illness, including bleeding, shock, organ failure, and sometimes death.
What can you do to prevent yellow fever?
Get Yellow Fever Vaccine
- Anyone 9 months or older who travels to areas where yellow fever vaccine is recommended should be vaccinated against yellow fever at least 10 days before travel.
- People who have never been vaccinated against yellow fever should avoid traveling to areas where yellow fever vaccination is recommended.
- Find a yellow fever vaccine provider.
- Keep in mind that the nearest yellow fever vaccination clinic may be some distance away from where you live, and appointments may be limited. Contact the clinic ahead of time to make sure the clinic has the vaccine.
- After getting vaccinated, you will receive a signed and stamped “yellow card,” known as an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (or ICVP), which you should bring with you on your trip. Some countries require all travelers to show proof of yellow fever vaccination before they can enter the country.
Prevent Mosquito Bites
Because yellow fever and other diseases are spread by mosquito bites, you should prevent mosquito bites during travel by
- Using insect repellent
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors
- Sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room or under an insecticide-treated bed net
- Covering cribs, strollers, and baby carriers with mosquito netting to protect your baby or child
What do we know about yellow fever vaccine?
Yellow fever vaccine is only available at a limited number of clinics in the United States right now. The only US-licensed yellow fever vaccine (YF-Vax) is out of stock. Until supply returns around the end of 2018, the manufacturer has made an alternative yellow fever vaccine, Stamaril, available at certain locations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Stamaril until YF-Vax is available again. It is just as safe and effective as YF-Vax.
For most travelers, a single dose of yellow fever vaccine provides lifelong protection.
Reactions to yellow fever vaccine are generally mild. They may include headaches, muscle aches, and low-grade fevers.
- However, in rare cases, the yellow fever vaccine can have serious and sometimes fatal side effects.
- Infants 6 to 8 months old, adults 60 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk of developing serious side effects.
- There are special concerns for pregnant and nursing women.
- Talk to your health care provider about whether you should get the vaccine.