UM Health Expert: Yellow Fever to Spread to South Florida

There’s concern South Florida could experience an outbreak of yellow fever something we haven’t seen in over a hundred years.

State health officials are concerned that a large outbreak in Brazil and South and Central America could lead to infected travelers bringing the disease to South Florida.

And then the conditions are ripe to breed mosquitoes that can spread the disease just like the Zika virus last year.

The disease is deadlier than Zika which causes birth defects.  Brazil reported 1,131 cases and 338 deaths attributable to yellow fever from July to March.

 Most people infected with yellow fever won’t even realize they have been infected because symptoms are so mild.  The symptoms such as fever, chills and headaches mimic many other illnesses.

But for about 15 percent of the infected, the initial symptoms pass and then come back with a vengeance within a day.  Then the infected suffer internal bleeding and jaundice and organ failure. An half of those patients usually within a week or two.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned travelers in March not to go to yellow fever hotspots in Brazil unless they were vaccinated.

South Florida officials hope the stepped-up mosquito control efforts already in effect to curb Zika will help contain any potential yellow fever outbreak.

Yellow fever and Zika are carried by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can also transmit dengue and chikungunya.

“If yellow fever is introduced into South Florida, and I suppose it will be, you’re not going to see the same explosive outbreak we did with Zika,” said Justin Stoler, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Miami who has done global health research with a focus on mosquito-borne illnesses. “There hasn’t been prior exposure, but we’ve kept mosquito populations down, which is a good thing.”


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