Although it has a vaccine to prevent the disease, it does not have a cure.
Yellow fever derives its name from two of its symptoms – jaundice and fever. The “yellow” in its name refers to the yellowish discoloration of the eyes (conjunctiva) and skin that usually affects some patients who have this disease.
Progress has been made in fighting this disease in West Africa, since the launch of the Yellow Fever Initiative in 2006. So, more than 105 million people have received immunisation against it. As a result, there were no reported cases of the disease in West Africa in 2015.
However, worldwide, there seems to be an increase in the disease. This increase has been attributed to deforestation, high-density urbanisation, decreased immunity to the infection and climate change.
Most people who have yellow fever have a mild disease – with mild or no symptoms. But, a few people go on to develop a serious yellow fever disease; and half of those who develop this severe disease die.
Over the past few decades, the number of people infected with this disease has increased. In view of this, active steps have been taken and strategies put in place to prevent yellow fever from re-emerging and educate the society about this disease.
It is said that the disease originated in Africa and got into America when infected persons were brought in as slaves from Africa.
Over centuries, throughout history, there have been many yellow fever outbreaks. During the 17th century, there was an outbreak in the Yucatan peninsula – this was the first outbreak of the disease that was recorded. New England and many port cities in North America suffered an outbreak in the 18th century. And then, in Philadelphia, another epidemic occurred in 1793, that resulted in the death of a tenth of the city’s population. In 1905, the last major outbreak in North America occurred in New Orleans.
In the 19th century, Dr. Carlos Finlay –a Cuban physician – suggested that mosquitoes transmit yellow fever. In 1900, a Major in the United States Army (Dr, Walter Reed) and his team, used Dr. Finlay’s research to prove that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes. In the late 1920s, the yellow fever virus was identified. Based on the identification of the causative organism of the disease, Max Theiler, in the 1930s, developed the first yellow fever vaccine. The vaccine and the knowledge that mosquitoes transmit the disease was instrumental in controlling and getting rid of it in many South American and African countries in the 20th century.