Yellow fever

Yellow fever is a short-lasting illness. It is caused by a virus and spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito.

The term ‘yellow’ refers to the jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes of people who have serious cases of it.

The Aedes mosquitoes that spread yellow fever are not normally found in New Zealand. This means anyone in New Zealand with the virus has almost always caught it overseas. Yellow fever outbreaks are most common in Africa and Latin America.

In most cases symptoms are mild and include a sudden fever.

If you are concerned about yellow fever, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

If you are travelling to a country where there is yellow fever, you may want to consider being vaccinated against it. Some countries require proof of vaccination before you can enter.

The yellow fever virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It cannot be spread from person to person.

The best way to avoid yellow fever is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Use insect repellent (you can apply this over sunscreen), wear long sleeves, pants and socks, and stay in places where there are mosquito screens on windows and doors, or places with air-conditioning where the doors and windows are closed.

Symptoms of yellow fever will start three to six days after someone has caught it. In most cases symptoms are mild. They can include

  • sudden fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • muscle pains and backache
  • being and feeling sick.

These symptoms normally disappear after three or four days.

A small number of people will get seriously ill with yellow fever, when the fever returns and damages their liver or kidneys. This is when people are likely to get jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

There is no specific treatment for mild cases of yellow fever. To help take care of yourself you can:

  • rest
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • take paracetamol rather than aspirin for the fever, headache and muscle pains, as aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding.

Talk to your doctor about what medicines you are taking before taking additional medicine.

Serious cases of yellow fever need immediate hospital treatment.

Yellow fever is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. Once we are notified about a case of yellow fever, we can investigate which country it came from and give health advice about looking after yourself.

Medical officers of health at National Public Health Service (NPHS) - Northern Region are responsible for vaccinator authorisations in the Northern region. Regulation 44A of the Medicines Regulations 1984 gives the medical officer of health the power to authorise a vaccinator following a written application. Yellow fever vaccination and certification is a responsibility devolved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the New Zealand Ministry of Health under the International Health Regulations 2005. Medical practitioners and medical centres who offer yellow fever vaccination need specific approval granted by the Director General of Health upon recommendation of the local medical officer of health.

NPHS - Northern Region also works to keep mosquitoes from overseas out of the Northern Region.


There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 13.12.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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