Travelers visiting Africa and South America require vaccination against “yellow fever.” This viral infection spreads through the bite of mosquitos and comes in two different strains – one that presents mild symptoms, and another with severe health consequences. The aggressive type of yellow fever kills around 50-percent of all people infected with the virus.
Fortunately, the milder strain of the disease is more prevalent and responsible for the majority of viral infections attributed to yellow fever. Individuals who contract the disease may not exhibit symptoms for the first two weeks after the infected mosquito bite.
During this incubation stage, the virus gains maturity in the body, before it starts to produce symptoms in infected patients. There is no specific treatment to cure yellow fever, and all doctors can do is manage symptoms as they appear.
Here are eight early signs of yellow fever. If you’re visiting, or returning home from a trip to an infection zone and notice any of these early signs of infection – seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
1. Fever and Headache
As the incubation period comes to an end and the virus reaches a critical mass, it starts to produce symptoms in infected individuals. One of the first signs of yellow fever is the development of a headache. Since this symptom can have multiple causes, it’s not often a clear indication of yellow fever, and many people brush it off to dehydration or another reason such as elevated stress levels from returning home from your travels.
However, this type of headache comes and goes, increasing in its intensity and duration as the virus progresses. The second sign of yellow fever infection is the onset of a fever. Symptoms are mild at first, advancing into a state when the intensity of the temperature may start to cause delirium and heavy sweating in the infected person.
Initially, the person may think they are coming down with a case of the flu and decide to stay in bed rather than find treatment.
2. Muscle Ache
This symptom is another flu-like condition that may confuse those people infected with yellow fever into thinking they have an influenza infection. Muscle ache is relatively common in viral infections and an early warning sign of the condition. When it occurs alongside fever and headache – it’s something that should be taken into consideration when evaluating your situation.
Muscle aches in patients with yellow fever tend to localize to the lower back and knees. Most influenza-induced muscle ache symptoms affect all the muscles in the body, making these localized symptoms of tissue pain a dead giveaway for yellow fever infection.
If you’ve recently returned home from traveling and start to experience muscle ache along with fever and headache – the chances are that you could have contracted yellow fever on your trip. Seek professional medical help to manage your symptoms immediately.
Doctors treat pain symptoms using painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to provide relief.
3. Light Sensitivity
Along with the initial symptoms of fever and headache, a person infected with the yellow fever virus may also notice they start to experience sensitivity to sources of light, such as the sun and bright indoor lighting. Looking into a light source may cause you to squint your eyes, and creates sensations of discomfort that force you to look away – similar to how you might feel if you looked directly into the sun for a few seconds.
The intensity of these symptoms varies from person to person, with some people experiencing severe sensitivity issues, while others barely notice it at all. Medical science is at a loss to explain the biomechanics of why light sensitivity occurs in people infected with yellow fever.
Those patients experiencing light sensitivity may find some benefit from wearing dark, wrap-around sunglasses that block out intense sources of light such as light bulbs, television screens, and the sun.
4. Dizziness, Nausea, and Vomiting
Yellow fever may cause complications with the normal function of the vestibular system, a network of nerves connecting from the base of the skull through the temporomandibular joint, and the ears. The vestibular system is responsible for keeping your sense of balance while your head moves at different angles in your direction.
Yellow fever affects the normal functioning of these nerves, resulting in symptoms of dizziness and vertigo, where the patient may not be able to stand up correctly without the feeling of falling over. As a result, many patients with yellow fever may need a wheelchair to help them get around while they are dealing with the infection.
Yellow fever can also affect the nerves in the gastrointestinal system, resulting in feelings of nausea that may result in vomiting. Doctors treat nausea with medications, but the dizziness symptoms have no treatment available other than bed rest for the infected person.