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If you are a South African travelling to or from countries that require a yellow fever certificate (also known as the “yellow card”), you must ensure that you get a vaccination against yellow fever before leaving on your trip. All individuals above the age of 1 year are required by international health regulations to get vaccinated before any journey that entails travel to or through the so-called “yellow fever belt” of Africa or Central and South America.
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus that is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito and is so named because when the virus attacks the liver, the colour of the skin and eyes turns yellow (jaundice). Symptoms take 3-6 days to develop and include fever, chills, severe headache, backache, general body aches, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue.
The risk of travellers getting yellow fever differs due to various factors, including the season, the destination, the type of activities undertaken, and the length of stay. The risk is low for most travellers, especially if you are going to mainly well-developed urban areas. Those staying for a longer time, participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fieldwork or cycling, and those visiting rural or jungle areas are more at risk for yellow fever.
Yellow fever is endemic (always present) in many of the tropical areas of Africa and South America, which means that any areas populated with the mosquito could harbour the disease.
You will not be able to get a visa or permit to travel to the following countries unless you have been vaccinated at least 10 days prior to your departure date and can show a yellow fever certificate:
You will need to produce a yellow fever certificate if you are travelling from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission, and in some cases, simply transiting through an infected country.
A comprehensive list of countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and countries requiring yellow fever vaccination can be found on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website. The latest travel and health updates can be found on the WHO (World Health Organisation) website.
NOTE: The spread of diseases is unpredictable and can be accidentally imported to previously unaffected countries, so it is important to do thorough research and check the latest travel advisories before and during your trip.
As of 11 July 2016, a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever (ICVP) is valid for the lifetime of the person vaccinated. Prior to 2016, yellow fever vaccination certificates were valid for a period of 10 years, commencing 10 days after the date of vaccination.
Additional doses of the yellow fever vaccine are recommended for travellers with a weakened immune system (i.e. pregnant women, HIV-infected persons, Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, and young children) if they have to travel. Booster doses are also recommended for certain groups who are believed to be at increased risk due to location and duration of travel.
Find out more about the Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Note: Despite the recent changes regarding the validity of the yellow fever vaccine and boosters, it is uncertain if all countries will adopt the change and if all national border officials will be aware of the change or be able to enforce it appropriately. Therefore, it is important that you check the entry requirements for your chosen destination before embarking on your journey.
Although there have been various myths that the vaccine is not safe and can actually infect you with yellow fever, the single-dose vaccine against yellow fever is 100% safe and effective. It is recommended for the majority of individuals over nine months of age.
The vaccine is generally not recommended for:
Note: Pregnant women and travellers with infants younger than 9 months are advised against traveling to areas within the yellow fever zone.
Some of the less serious side effects (which may occur for 5-10 days afterwards) include:
Some of the more serious side effects (which may occur up to 30 days afterwards) include:
Some of the signs of an allergic reaction include:
Call your doctor or seek emergency medical help if you experience any of the serious side effects or allergic reactions.
The cost of a yellow fever vaccine in South Africa is about R 350.00* (excluding the consultation fee).
There are many clinics throughout South Africa where you can get your yellow fever vaccination, Including:
Should you require any further information regarding yellow fever you can contact the Department of Health (DOH) or the World Health Organisation (WHO). This certainly is not something you want to take any risks with, and you should be able to enjoy your travels safely in the knowledge that you are vaccinated against yellow fever.
*Published prices are subject to change without prior notice.
All information on this page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of information from this website.
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