Vaccine

A safe and highly effective vaccine prevents yellow fever. Yellow fever is known to be present in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America. Talk to your doctor about whether you need the yellow fever vaccine at least 10 to 14 days before traveling to these areas or if you are a resident of one of them. Some of these countries require a valid certificate of immunization in order to enter the country.

A single dose of the vaccine provides protection for at least 10 years. Side effects of the yellow fever vaccine are usually mild, lasting five to 10 days, and may include headaches, low-grade fevers, muscle pain, fatigue and soreness at the site of injection. More-significant reactions — such as developing a syndrome similar to actual yellow fever, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or death — can occur, most often in infants and older adults. The vaccine is considered safest for those between the ages of 9 months and 60 years.

Talk to your doctor about whether the yellow fever vaccine is appropriate if your child is younger than 9 months, if you have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised), or if you're older than 60 years.

Mosquito protection

In addition to getting the vaccine, you can help protect yourself against yellow fever by protecting yourself against mosquitoes.

To reduce your exposure to mosquitoes:

  • Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you go into mosquito-infested areas.
  • Stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing.

To ward off mosquitoes with repellent, use both of the following:

  • Nonskin repellent. Apply permethrin-containing mosquito repellent to your clothing, shoes, camping gear and bed netting. You can buy some articles of clothing and gear pre-treated with permethrin. Permethrin is not intended for use on your skin.
  • Skin repellent. Products with the active ingredients DEET or picaridin provide the longest lasting skin protection. Choose the concentration based on the hours of protection you need. In general, higher concentrations last longer. Keep in mind that chemical repellents can be toxic, and use only the amount needed for the time you'll be outdoors. Don't use DEET on the hands of young children or on infants under 2 months of age. Instead, cover your infant's stroller or playpen with mosquito netting when outside.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oil of lemon eucalyptus, a more natural product, offers the same protection as DEET when used in similar concentrations. However, these products should not be used on children younger than age 3.

Aug. 27, 2011

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