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HandWiki. Timeline of Yellow Fever. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 16 June 2024).
HandWiki. Timeline of Yellow Fever. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 16, 2024.
HandWiki. "Timeline of Yellow Fever" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 16, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 03). Timeline of Yellow Fever. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Timeline of Yellow Fever." Encyclopedia. Web. 03 November, 2022.
Timeline of Yellow Fever

This is a timeline of yellow fever. Major events such as historical epidemics and medical developments are described.


1. Big Picture

Year/period Key developments
17th century Yellow fever infection spreads as the shipping industry and global commerce expand. Large numbers of African slaves, infected with yellow fever, also spread the disease.[1] Early recorded epidemics of yellow fever occur in Barbados, Cuba, Guadeloupe and Mexico.[2]
18th century Yellow fever spreads to Europe.[3] Outbreaks are also reported from areas within West Africa, with far fewer outbreaks being identified in East Africa.[4]
19th century Public health experts continue to believe yellow fever is transmitted by contact with infected patients.[1] At the close of the century, yellow fever is a known and feared pestilence of the western hemisphere and the coastal regions of West Africa, for which no cause or effective treatment is known.[5] Josiah C. Nott and Carlos Finlay link yellow fever to mosquitoes as disease vectors.[2]
1900s Early in the century, Aedes aegypti is established as the yellow fever disease vector, and eradication of it in a number of countries, notably Panama, Brazil , Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina , leads to the disappearance of urban yellow fever.[6] Yellow fever is eradicated from the United States .[3][7]
1930s Yellow fever vaccines are developed.[3] Massive vaccination campaigns would follow.[2]
1940s–1950s Mass campaigns are conducted using the 17D vaccine in South America and the French neurotropic vaccine in French-controlled areas of Africa. Large scale vaccination campaigns would reduce yellow fever incidence for several decades.[3][7][8] In the 1940s and early 1950s, nearly 40 million doses of FNV would be administered in French-speaking countries of West Africa.[7]
1960s Yellow fever outbreaks occur in both Africa and the Americas. Thousands of cases are reported in West Africa, where vaccination coverage is weak or absent.[3][7]
1980s onwards Incidence of yellow fever increases in Africa. Between 1980 and 2012, 150 yellow fever outbreaks in 26 countries in Africa would be reported to the World Health Organization.[3][8] Early in the 1990s, global estimates of 200,000 cases and 30,000 deaths annually are reported, around 90% of which occur in Africa.[8]
2000s Yellow fever vaccine is incorporated into the routine childhood vaccinations of several South American and African countries, thus decreasing the number of persons susceptible to the disease over time.[3]
Recent years Between 2007 and 2016, 14 countries would complete preventive yellow fever vaccination campaigns.[9] Today, Yellow fever causes 200,000 infections and 30,000 deaths every year, with nearly 90% of these occurring in Africa. Forty-four countries in Africa, South and Central America are within the modern yellow fever endemic zone, with almost 900 million people at risk of infection.[7]

2. Full Timeline

WHO-UNICEF estimates of yellow fever vaccine coverage in% in African countries, for the period 1997-2015.[10]
WHO-UNICEF estimates of yellow fever vaccine coverage in% in American countries, for the period 1997-2015.[10]
Year/period Type of event Event Geographical location
3000 BP   Probable origin of yellow fever in Africa, according to modern sequence analysis of the viral genome.[11] Africa
1494 Epidemic Disease outbreaks similar in signs and symptoms to yellow fever are reported from Canary islands and Cape Verde off the coast of Africa, and sometimes in coastal countries such as Gambia, and Sierra Leone.[2] West Africa
1647 Epidemic The first definitive outbreak of yellow fever in the Americas happens in the island of Barbados. Barbados
1648 Epidemic An outbreak is recorded by Spanish colonists in the Yucatán Peninsula, where the indigenous Mayan people call the illness xekik ("blood vomit"). Yellow fever is found in Mayan manuscripts describing an outbreak of the disease in the Yucatan peninsula.[3][7] Mexico
1649 Epidemic Yellow fever is brought in ships to and from Africa and the West Indies, to Gibraltar.[2] Gibraltar
1668 Epidemic The first yellow fever outbreak in English-speaking North America occurs in New York City .[3] United States
1669 Epidemic English colonists in Philadelphia and the French in the Mississippi River Valley record major outbreaks of yellow fever. United States
1685 Epidemic Brazil suffers its first yellow fever epidemic, in Recife.[12] Brazil
1730 Epidemic 2,200 deaths are reported in Cadiz, Spain, due to yellow fever, followed by outbreaks in French and British seaports.[3]  
1750 Epidemic The term yellow fever is first used by author Griffin Hughes in his book Natural History of Barbadoes.[2][11] Barbados
1778 Epidemic Yellow fever outbreak reportedly decimates English troops stationed at Saint-Louis, Senegal.[2] Senegal
1793–1805 Epidemic Severe yellow fever epidemics afflict Boston, New York City and Philadelphia.[13] United States
1799 Organization Largely in response to the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, the Philadelphia Lazaretto Quarantine Station on Tinicum Island is built. The station is designed to quarantine infected travelers headed for Philadelphia by ship.[14] United States (Philadelphia)
1800 Epidemic Yellow fever epidemic breaks out in Spain. Over 60,000 deaths are associated.[2] Spain
1839–1860 Epidemic About 26,000 people in New Orleans contract yellow fever.[1] Three successive epidemics, from 1853 to 1855, kill about 14,000 people in the city.[13] United States
1848 Scientific development American physician Josiah C. Nott floats the idea that mosquitoes may be serving as agents for the dissemination of both yellow fever and malaria (However, the full credit for the theory would be given to Carlos Finlay).[2]  
1878 Epidemic About 20,000 people die in an epidemic in towns of the Mississippi River Valley and its tributaries.[13] United States
1881 Scientific development Cuban physician, Carlos Finlay, acting on a theory that mosquitoes carry the yellow fever virus, conducts an experiment with mosquitoes that harbor the disease after biting yellow fever patients. He lets the mosquitoes bite an experimental subject, who then would come down with yellow fever, thus proving the hypothesis. Finlay would be recognized as a pioneer in the research of yellow fever, determining that it is transmitted through mosquitoes.[3][7] Cuba
1898 Epidemic During the Spanish–American War, reportedly more soldiers from the United States Army die of yellow fever than in battle. This would prompt military efforts for further research and the formation of the Reed Yellow Fever Commission led by Walter Reed, an American army surgeon.[3] Cuba
1898   Yellow fever vector Aedes aegypti is seen in Brazil for the first time. Aedes aegypti would be responsible for turning yellow fever into an urban disease in the Americas.[15] Brazil
1900 Scientific development The Reed Yellow Fever Commission proves that yellow fever infection is transmitted to humans by mosquito Aedes aegypti, which would later be determined to be the vector of the urban transmission cycle of yellow fever virus.[3]  
1905 Epidemic The last outbreak of yellow fever in the United States occurs in New Orleans.[3][7] United States
1906 Epidemic An estimated 85% of Panama Canal workers are hospitalized with either malaria or yellow fever. Workers are so terrified of yellow fever that they flee the construction site in droves at the first hint of the disease. Tens of thousands of workers die.[1] However, following the demonstration that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmission of the yellow fever virus to humans, intense sanitation programs begin in Panama and Havana, Cuba. These efforts would lead to the eradication of the disease in these areas, and enable the completion of the Panama Canal by 1906.[3] Panama, Cuba
1907   To date, yellow fever has acquired 152 synonyms, including American Pestilence, Barbados Distemper, Continua Putrida, Icteroides Caroliniensis, Yellow Jack, etc.[2]  
1909   United States Army physician William C. Gorgas states that yellow fever can be eradicated, meaning the disease as a specific entity can be eliminated.[16]  
1915 Organization The Rockefeller Yellow Fever Commission of the Rockefeller Foundation is formed.[17] United States
1925 Organization The Rockefeller Foundation expands its yellow fever activities to Africa, and establishes the West African Yellow Fever Commission The expedition, based near Lagos, is to determine whether African yellow fever is the same as yellow fever in South America, to find the causative agent (including further search for Leptospira), and to study its epidemiology.[5] Africa
1927 Scientific development Rockefeller Yellow Fever Commission researchers first isolate the causative agent of yellow fever disease, the yellow fever virus, from a Ghanaian patient named Asibi. The Asibi yellow fever virus strain is still widely used by scientists today.[2][7]  
1928 Epidemic The last documented urban yellow fever epidemic in the Americas occurs in Rio de Janeiro.[7] Brazil
1937 Medical development South African virologist Max Theiler and colleagues develop a live-attenuated vaccine strain, designated 17D, for immunization against yellow fever. The yellow fever vaccine used today derives from the original 17D strain. Theiler would be later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his life-saving research. The French neurotropic vaccine is also developed in the 1930s, from a strain isolated in Senegal in 1927.[3][7][18]  
1940 Epidemic The first epidemic confirmed in East Africa breaks out in central Sudan.[4] Sudan
1942 Epidemic Major epidemics of hepatitis occur in United States and Allied troops who have received yellow fever vaccine. The source of the infection would be traced to the serum, or clear fluid in the blood, that is used in the vaccine.[19][20] Europe
1943 Epidemic Yellow fever epidemic breaks out in Bolivia.[18] Bolivia
1950   Report shows high rate of postvaccinal encephalitis following administration of the yellow fever vaccine to infants.[3]  
1954 Epidemic The last documented Aedes aegypti-borne yellow fever epidemic in the western hemisphere occurs in Trinidad.[6] Trinidad and Tobago
1955   UNICEF and the World Health Organization determine that yellow fever is a worldwide issue that must be tackled together.[16]  
1960–1962 Epidemic Yellow fever epidemic breaks out in Ethiopia. 100,000 cases and 30,000 deaths are reported.[2] Ethiopia
1969 Epidemic Yellow fever epidemic breaks out in the Jos Plateau, Nigeria. 397 patients were hospitalized and 123 deaths are confirmed.[21] Nigeria
1982   The French neurotropic vaccine is abandoned due to high rates of postvaccinal encephalitis caused by the vaccine. The 17D vaccine becomes the standard for use in immunization for yellow fever worldwide.[3]  
1988 Program launch The World Health Organization recommends that vaccination against yellow fever be included in routine infant immunization programs (as of 2009, 22 African countries and 14 South American countries have done so).[7]  
1992 Epidemic A large yellow fever outbreak is confirmed in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya,[4] a country that has been free of YF for more than 50 years.[2] Kenya
1998–1999 Epidemic 147 cases of jungle yellow fever are reported in Brazil.[15] Brazil
1999 Epidemic Yellow fever re-emerges in parts of Brazil that have been silent for several decades. This would challenge prevention strategies and result in frequent revision of yellow fever vaccine recommendations.[22] Brazil
2005 Organization The Yellow Fever Initiative is launched as a collaboration between the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) with support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance), with aims at securing the precarious yellow fever vaccine supply by creating a vaccine stockpile to be used in outbreak response campaigns as well as to increase the vaccination coverage in the most affected areas by implementation of large preventive mass vaccination campaigns in 12 of the most affected countries in West Africa.[8] Africa
2008 Epidemic Yellow fever breaks out in central and southeastern Brazil, northeastern Argentina and Paraguay (after a 34-year absence).[7][22] Brazil , Argentina , Paraguay
2011 Program launch Following an outbreak of yellow fever in northern Uganda in December 2010, the Ministry of Health conducts a massive emergency vaccination campaign. 177 vaccination posts are created, 354 health workers and 590 volunteers from 295 villages are identified and trained.[23] Uganda
2013 Epidemic African countries report an estimated 130,000 cases of yellow fever with fever and jaundice or haemorrhage, including 78,000 deaths.[8] Africa
2016 Epidemic A yellow fever outbreak in Angola spreads to the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 3,867 suspected cases in Angola and 2,269 suspected cases in DRC.[1] Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo


  1. Brink, Susan. "Yellow Fever Timeline: The History Of A Long Misunderstood Disease". Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
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  5. Frierson, J. Gordon (2010). "The Yellow Fever Vaccine: A History". The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 83 (2): 77–85. PMID 20589188.
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  12. Bethell, Leslie (1987-05-07). Colonial Brazil. ISBN 9780521349253.,+in+Recife.#v=onepage&q=1685%20Epidemic%20Brazil%20suffered%20its%20first%20epidemic%2C%20in%20Recife.&f=false. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
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  21. CAREY, D. E.; BRES, P; KEMP, G. E.; TROUP, J. M.; WHITE, H. A.; SMITH, E. A.; ADDY, R. F.; FOM, A. L. et al. (1972). "Epidemiological aspects of the 1969 yellow fever epidemic in Nigeria". Bulletin of the World Health Organization 46 (5): 645–651. PMID 4538037.
  22. Romano, A. P.; Costa, Z. G.; Ramos, D. G.; Andrade, M. A.; Jayme, V. D.; De Almeida, M. A.; Vettorello, K. C.; Mascheretti, M. et al. (2014). Gubler, Duane J.. ed. "Yellow Fever Outbreaks in Unvaccinated Populations, Brazil, 2008–2009". PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 8 (3): e2740. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002740. PMID 24625634.
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