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Yellow fever

Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes in parts of Central and South America and Africa. 

Page last updated 18 January 2024

The “yellow" in the name refers to the jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) that may affect some people. Persons travelling to countries where yellow fever is considered a risk are recommended to see their doctor to discuss vaccinations against the disease, at least 10 days prior to their departure.

Commonly asked questions

What is yellow fever?

Yellow fever is a serious viral disease transmitted by a specific type of mosquito (known as Aedes aegypti). It is found in parts of Africa and Central and South America. The name of the disease comes from the fact that people with serious infections have yellow skin and eyes (jaundice) caused by infection of their liver.

What are the symptoms of yellow fever?

The first symptoms of yellow fever appear 3-6 days after exposure to the virus. These symptoms are known as stage one of the disease, and may include:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • flushed face
  • constipation
  • stomach pains
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • restlessness and irritability.

These symptoms last for approximately 3-4 days and then settle over another couple of days. In mild cases, the infection ends here. In more severe cases (approx. 15-25%), this is followed by serious symptoms know as stage two (toxic stage). About 50% of the people that reach this stage will die. Symptoms in stage two include:

  • high fever
  • pain in the upper part of the abdomen with vomiting of black ‘coffee grounds’ /bleeding
  • jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
  • kidney failure
  • liver failure
  • death.

Yellow fever is a serious disease - urgent medical advice is needed if you have travelled to an area where yellow fever is present and you develop similar symptoms. 

Who is at risk of yellow fever?

Yellow fever generally only occurs in certain parts of Africa and South America. Therefore, people living in these areas as well as unimmunised travellers are at greater risk of infection. 

Which countries are affected by yellow fever?

Yellow fever occurs in 47 countries the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa (34 countries) and Central and South America (13 countries).

Because there is a risk of travellers bringing yellow fever back from these countries to others such as Australia where it does not occur, many countries (including Australia) require proof of vaccination upon entry into the country.

How is yellow fever prevented?

Vaccination is important for preventing yellow fever. Australians travelling to high risk yellow fever areas should be vaccinated against the disease before travel. Travellers are advised to visit their General Practitioner or travel medicine specialist before travelling overseas to discuss suitable vaccination options. 

Australians should be aware that yellow fever vaccination may be a formal requirement to enter some countries where the disease is present. Travellers to areas where yellow fever may be present are advised to take extra precaution to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

These include:

  • Using insect repellent when outdoors and wearing light, long sleeved protective clothes
  • Treating clothes with repellent
  • Taking extra precautions during dusk and dawn when mosquitos are most active
  • Book accommodation in rooms with air conditioning or adequate screening, like a bed net or aerosol room insecticides.

Sources & Citations

  1. Australian Government Department of Health. National Guidelines for Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres and Providers. Available at:$File/Guidelines-Yellow-Fever-Vaccination-Centres.pdf (accessed 15 December 2021).
  2. World Health Organization. Yellow fever. Available at: (accessed 15 December 2021).
  3. Australian Government Department of Health. Yellow fever – general fact sheet. Available at: (accessed 15 December 2021).
  4. New South Wales Health. Yellow fever fact sheet. Available at: (accessed 15 December 2021).
  5. Better Health Channel. Travel health – yellow fever immunisation Available at: (accessed 15 December 2021).
  6. Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Yellow fever. Available at: (accessed 15 December 2021).
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Fever Maps. Available at: (accessed 15 December 2021).


MAT-AU-2102492  Date of preparation January 2022