The Safari Experts
yellow fever

Yellow fever when travelling in Africa


... is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease, transmitted by the bite of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and other species. The only known hosts of the virus are primates.

The disease presents in most cases with fever, nausea, and pain and it generally subsides after several days. In some patients, a toxic phase follows, in which liver damage with jaundice can occur and lead to death. Because of the increased bleeding tendency, yellow fever belongs to the group of hemorrhagic fevers.

Locations ...

Yellow fever is endemic to tropical and subtropical areas of South America and Africa, but not Asia. The WHO estimates that yellow fever causes 200,000 illnesses and 30,000 deaths every year in unvaccinated populations, with around 90% of the infections occurring in Africa.

The disease is endemic to a large swathe of countries across eastern, central and western Africa, but not northern or southern parts of the continent.

Of the countries in which we operate safaris, the only ones where yellow fever is endemic are Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The question of whether or not yellow fever is endemic in Tanzania and Zambia is in dispute, but for practical travel purposes the most important element of this debate is the issue of border control, described below.

Yellow fever in Africa map

Avoidance ...

A safe and effective vaccine against yellow fever has existed since the middle of the 20th century. Since no therapy is known, vaccination programs are, along with measures to reduce the population of the transmitting mosquito, of great importance in affected areas. Since the 1980s, the number of cases of yellow fever has been increasing, making it a re-emerging disease.

For journeys into affected areas, vaccination is highly recommended since mostly non-native people can be affected by severe cases of the disease. The protective effect is established 10 days after vaccination in 95% of the vaccinated people and lasts for at least 10 years, with 81% of patients retaining immunity even 30 years later. The attenuated live vaccine (stem 17D) was developed in 1937 by Max Theiler from a diseased patient in Ghana and is produced in chicken eggs.

Border controls ...

If you are travelling in or out of a yellow fever endemic country then you may be required to show a certificate of vaccination.

Countries are continually changing their entry requirements with regard to yellow fever certification so the simplest advice is to always carry your proof of vaccination with you, or at the very least a certificate stating that you are medically unable to have the vaccine.

Read more about yellow fever in Wikipedia.

Disclaimer : Please note that all of the information on this page and elsewhere in the health section of our website is provided for information only. We suggest that you always refer to a health professional when seeking medical advice.
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