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Get that yellow card!

If you’re bound for the tropics, you may hear about mosquito-borne viruses like chikungunya and Zika. But there’s one that’s even more dangerous: yellow fever.

The first two will may knock you flat for awhile or leave your baby with birth defects.  Yellow fever will kill you.

mosquito grafficThis virus first turned up in Africa about 3,000 years before Christ, and the world hasn’t been the same since.  Australia and Antartica are the only continents that don’t have a major yellow fever epidemic somewhere in their history.  It also prevented the Panama Canal from being built.

And yes, we’ve had it here, too.  In the mid-1800s, it wiped out 5 percent of the population of New Orleans. Folks there were so desperate to be rid of it, they tried driving it out with tar burning and cannon fire.

We now know the key to stemming yellow fever is keeping mosquitoes in check. But in much of the world, that’s easier said than done.  Result, there’s no telling when or where an outbreak may occur.

Like Brazil, which has one going right now.

It started last December. The toll so far — more than 1,000 suspected cases, 600 confirmed cases and 200 deaths. And contrary to the expectation of scientists, it’s not slowing down.

Luckily today, there’s a vaccine. It’s pricey — a single shot can cost you upwards of $100 — but it works.

The best part: One shot may be good for life.

If you plan to travel in much of Asia, most of Africa or almost anywhere in Latin America, you need that shot.

Many nations around the world require you to be vaccinated for yellow fever before they will admit you into their countries.  In Africa especially, this requirement is almost universal — and non-negotiable.

As proof that you’ve been inoculated against yellow fever, your doctor or nurse will sign and date a special yellow card called an International Certification of Vaccination. Around the world, it’s known simply as “the yellow card.”

If you’re getting a battery of vaccinations prior to international travel, each one should be recorded on that card. Make sure each is named, signed and dated on that card.

But the one they’ll be looking for first and foremost when you arrive is yellow fever.  If you don’t have that, your big international dream trip will end right there, in the airport.

You may be wondering, “Couldn’t I get my yellow fever shot after I arrive?” The answer is no, because it takes about ten days for the protection to take effect.

Which means that if you wait until the last minute to get your vaccination, and the date on your yellow card isn’t at least ten days old, your card will be considered invalid.

And you will be put on the “first thing smokin'” back to the States.

There’s no need to curtail all your international travel dreams because of yellow fever. You just need to be sure you protect yourself against it, including protection against mosquito bites.

It also means you need to treat that yellow card as if it were as precious as your passport.  Because in much of the world, it is.

 

 

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