Common Diseases

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a potentially deadly virus spread through the bite of infected female mosquitos and is found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa. Since the 1980s, the number of cases of yellow fever has been increasing, making it a re-emerging disease.

Generally the virus presents with symptoms such as fever, nausea, and pain and it generally subsides after several days. However in some patients, a toxic stage follows, wherein liver damage with jaundice and the increased risk of haemorrhage occurs. Eventually when the clotting system fails, bleeding occurs from the nose, gums, stomach and skin and may lead to death. The incubation period is generally 3 to 6 days but may be longer. Death usually occurs 7 to 10 days after the onset of the illness. There is no known treatment for the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that yellow fever causes over 200,000 illnesses and over 30,000 deaths every year in unvaccinated populations with around 90% of the infections occurring in Africa. Due to the severity of the illness the WHO has taken a special interest in the disease with Yellow fever now being subject to the WHO's International Health Regulations.

A safe and effective vaccine against yellow fever has existed since the mid-1930s. For travellers into affected areas, vaccination is highly recommended as typically non-native people are affected by more severe cases of yellow fever. Since no treatment is known, vaccination programs are, along with other preventative measures, of great importance. The vaccine, unlike Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Cholera vaccines, requires only a single dosage of an attenuated, live-virus preparation given as a single subcutaneous injection. If administered correctly it confers immunity against yellow fever in 95% of recipients with the protective effect established 10 days after vaccination and lasting for approximately 10 years. 

Besides many countries in South America and Africa requiring the presentation of vaccination certificates prior to arrival and on departure, many non-infected countries also require such presentation of vaccination certificates on entry when coming from infected areas. Australia is one of those countries.  This is because Australia's has both the perfect climate and the presence of mosquitos which theoretically puts Australia in danger of yellow fever epidemics, even though the disease does not yet occur here. The full list of countries requiring presentation of vaccination certificates has been published by the WHO and is available online. 

On 15 December 2007 new requirements outlined by the WHO came into effect and clinics in Australia are now required to use the "International Certificate of Vaccination for Prophylaxis" and an Australian Government Approved stamp which includes a registration number unique to the clinic that administers the vaccination. Clinics administering the vaccine must be WHO approved and therefore the Yellow fever vaccine is not available through many GPs and general medical centres. Travellers must usually visit specially approved centres to have the vaccine administered and recorded. 248 Bondi Road Medical Centre is a clinic approved by the Australian Government and WHO for the administration of the vaccine and certification proving vaccination and has held this accreditation for 20 years.