Yellow Fever Mosquitoes in California: Symptoms and Prevention

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Over the past few months a frightening trend has been spotted in California’s Central Valley. A dark looking mosquito with white markings has been creating a craze and sending people into their homes to seal their screens and windows. The yellow fever mosquito has been discovered in California and this begs the questions: how can someone recognize the symptoms of yellow fever and how can it be prevented?

What are Yellow Fever Mosquitoes?

What a yellow fever mosquito looks like
What a yellow fever mosquito looks like

The name yellow fever mosquito is the easiest name to label the carrier of the Yellow Fever. They stem from the Aedes aegypti family and prefer human blood over that of animals. In addition, the mosquito is a day biter but will consider the evening fair game if artificial lighting is around. These unwanted sources of agony lay their eggs in minuscule amounts of water; sometimes only a  teaspoon is needed to part with the eggs. The eggs can survive up to a year in their deposited location and become fully hatched when flooded by water.

California is a prime target for these mosquitoes as they will die in cold weather. This explains why Africa is hit with over 90 percent of infections – it is also the original home of the yellow fever mosquito. During the 1500’s, these blood seeking mosquitoes arrived in the Americas on slave ships to conquer many parts of the States. During the late 1800’s, over 20,000 Americans died from yellow fever. In an age of medical advancement, product placement and Internet answers – there is a “how to” that can help determine the symptoms and the prevention of the disease.

Yellow Fever Symptoms


If visiting or residing in warmer climates, it is essential to be prepared. Prevention tips will follow in the next section. The yellow fever mosquito will bite  like any other irksome mosquito. Like most bites, people scratch or rub them and continue on their way. Yellow fever can take up to six days before initial symptoms become apparent. Any of the following can be warning signs of infection, if one has been recently bitten by a mosquito:

  • Chills resulting in or from a sudden fever.
  • Headaches that become migraines or feel severe.
  • Nausea
  • Sudden back pain and/or weakness.
Jaundice (yellow skin and/or eyes) may set in if by stage 2, the conditions worsen
Jaundice (yellow skin and/or eyes) may set in if by stage 2, the condition worsens

While these symptoms are general, individuals will want to remember their location up to several days prior to the first signs of symptoms, to determine if a mosquito bite might be the cause. It is best to remain indoors until the symptoms pass or until a doctor can determine their cause. If symptoms do not improve within a day, it might be best to visit your doctor; not to do so could lead to severe symptoms in as few as 24 hours:

  • High fever
  • Jaundice – (yellowing of the skin or eyes) which is why it is called yellow fever.
  • Bleeding from any orifice.

During the illness, individuals will want to stay away from the outdoors and rest with plenty of fluids. Doctors will not be able to prescribe a treatment but can ease fears related to the illness and determine whether or not shock is progressing; shock can lead to organ failure. It is recommended by the CDC to avoid all anti-inflammatory drugs during healing, to avoid the risk of increasing the chance or occurrence of bleeding.

The fever may occur in three stages: the infection which is the initial onset of headaches, fever and joint pain. The second stage will either see a clearing of the symptoms or they may become worse as mentioned, within 24 hours. Second stage symptoms may include bright red or yellow eyes. The third stage requires immediate medical attention.

Ways to Prevent Yellow Fever

Whenever individuals or families are traveling to South America or Africa, doctors will administer the Fever vaccination. It is wholly recommended by the CDC for individuals not traveling to avoid the vaccination. The vaccine alone can open a host of side-effects, the vaccination is not needed if traveling nationally within the United States. There are many ways to prevent from this blood seeking, jaundice inducing mosquito:

  • Look for a repellent with DEET or picaridin
    Look for a repellent with DEET or picaridin

    Always wear insect repellent when outdoors in warmer months. There is non-skin repellent for clothes and any camping gear. The Mayo Clinic suggests selecting a permethrin-containing non-skin repellent. For skin repellents, selecting a brand with the active ingredient  DEET or picaridin is best for longer lasting repellent  effects  on the skin. The Mayo Clinic advisory warns to never place these repellents on infants under two months old – read the labels to confirm use and follow the directions carefully, especially when using these products on children. Oil of lemon and eucalyptus are considered by many to be more natural repellents for those individuals who may prefer not to use DEET.

  • If bitten, stay away from others. The transmission is easily passed between humans and can create a monster
  • Be aware of mosquito activity and it may be better to opt to stay in the air conditioning. Or wear long sleeved shorts and pants if entering a mosquito prone area.
  • Dispense of any stagnant water as much as possible around the home – yellow fever mosquito are more likely to bite indoors. Avoid leaving water bottles or glasses on outside tables – the mosquitoes are attracted to both  humans and water.
  • It’s better to keep small tots and babies indoors, as many repellents are not intended for their skin. Avoid using a repellent and suntan lotion together, it may create a nasty rash or clog pores.
  • Maintain hydrated, take vitamins and eat plenty of anti-oxidant foods.


While yellow fever mosquitoes have been spotted in parts of California, prevention now saves the spread of the fever later. The chances of getting bitten are relatively small, since the mosquitoes are not on familiar feeding ground. With proactive measures, individuals can keep it that way. There have been no related illnesses since the yellow fever mosquitoes were spotted in California. For those familiar with this illness, what are some ways to recognize and prevent yellow fever?


Angelina Bouc

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