Yellow Fever - Transmission


The yellow fever virus is mainly transmitted through the bite of the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, but other mosquitoes such as the "tiger mosquito" (Aedes albopictus) can also serve as a vector for the virus. Like other Arboviruses which are transmitted via mosquitoes, the yellow fever virus is taken up by a female mosquito which sucks the blood of an infected person or primate. Viruses reach the stomach of the mosquito, and if the virus concentration is high enough, the virions can infect epithelial cells and replicate there. From there they reach the haemocoel (the blood system of mosquitoes) and from there the salivary glands. When the mosquito next sucks blood, it injects its saliva into the wound, and thus the virus reaches the blood of the bitten person. There are also indications for transovarial and transstadial transmission of the yellow fever virus within A. aegypti, i.e., the transmission from a female mosquito to her eggs and then larvae. This infection of vectors without a previous blood meal seems to play a role in single, sudden breakouts of the disease.

There are three epidemiologically different infectious cycles, in which the virus is transmitted from mosquitoes to humans or other primates. In the "urban cycle," only the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti is involved. It is well adapted to urban centres and can also transmit other diseases, including Dengue and Chikungunya. The urban cycle is responsible for the major outbreaks of yellow fever that occur in Africa. Except in an outbreak in 1999 in Bolivia, this urban cycle no longer exists in South America.

Besides the urban cycle there is, both in Africa and South America, a sylvatic cycle (forest cycle or jungle cycle), where Aedes africanus (in Africa) or mosquitoes of the genus Haemagogus and Sabethes (in South America) serve as a vector. In the jungle, the mosquitoes infect mainly non-human primates; the disease is mostly asymptomatic in African primates. In South America, the sylvatic cycle is currently the only way humans can infect each other, which explains the low incidence of yellow fever cases on this continent. People who become infected in the jungle can carry the virus to urban centres, where Aedes aegypti acts as a vector. It is because of this sylvatic cycle that yellow fever cannot be eradicated.

In Africa there is a third infectious cycle, also known as "savannah cycle" or intermediate cycle, which occurs between the jungle and urban cycle. Different mosquitoes of the genus Aedes are involved. In recent years, this has been the most common form of transmission of yellow fever in Africa.

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