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International Health Regulations and Yellow Fever Vaccinations

by Dr Bob Kass - May 24, 2016

The importance of International Health Regulations in regards to Yellow Fever vaccinations!

A number of African countries are reporting outbreaks of Yellow Fever.  These include the Government of Angola who has notified WHO of more than 2000 cases, including 277 deaths. Cases have also been reported in the Republic of the Congo and Uganda.  Angola first reported cases in December 2015.

Case reports of Yellow Fever are not unusual in Africa, particularly West Africa, but the recent reports of at least 11 cases of yellow fever in travellers from China to Angola is of particular concern. All were diagnosed after returning to China!  

Why have there been cases when we have a highly effective vaccine?

According to international health regulations the Government of Angola requires all travellers over 9 months to show proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival in Angola. This has obviously NOT been the case and has prompted a number of public health measures in China.  In addition, a medical team has been deployed to Angola to provide yellow fever vaccination to unvaccinated Chinese nationals.

According to WHO, “the report of yellow fever infection in non-immunized travellers returning from a country where vaccination against the disease is mandatory underlines the need to reinforce the implementation of vaccination requirements, in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005). Furthermore, this report highlights the risk of international spread of yellow fever through non-immunized travellers”.

What is Yellow Fever?

Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes and has a high fatality rate. The incubation period is between 3 and 6 days. Risk of exposure is much greater in Africa than South America where it is confined to jungle areas.When the French attempted to build the Panama Canal in the 1880’s, it killed one in five of the workers!

Yellow fever vaccination is the only vaccine subject to International Health Regulations.  A specific recommendation depends on the exact itinerary as well as requirements of individual national authorities. The World Health Organization website explains this in more detail. It is also important to note that vaccination may be contraindicated in certain individuals. 

The vaccine provides excellent long term protection. Immunisation must be recorded in an International Certificate of Vaccination, a document that may be requested when crossing international boundaries.

Yellow Fever Vaccination Clinic

Globe Medical is a WHO authorised Yellow Fever vaccination clinic in Adelaide. Book an 'Initial Consult - New Trip' with one of our Travel Medicine doctors to discuss your trip and possible vacccination for Yellow Fever.


Dr Bob Kass

Dr Bob Kass is Medical Director of Globe Medical. He holds specialist qualifications in paediatrics and public health medicine and is one of Australia's pioneers in the discipline of Travel Medicine. 

Full professional biography​