A Brief History Of Yellow Fever

2235 words - 9 pages

You woke up a week ago feeling odd. You were not sure what was wrong, but your body was full of aches, you felt hot to the touch, and you kept vomiting. Your mother told you to lay down and rest, hoping it was just a cold. After a few days, you began to feel better, well enough that you wanted to return to the river to watch the trade ships come in. Now, unfortunately, your symptoms have come back with a vengeance – your fever is back along with intense abdominal pain, your mouth is bleeding without being wounded, and every time you vomit, it appears black in color. Also, when you look in the mirror, your skin has changed from the sun-kissed color you have always been to a dull yellow hue. The doctor comes in to examine you; he makes many “tsk tsk” noises and hurries out of the room with a cloth over his face. The doctor mumbles to your mother that he believes you have Yellow Jack and there is nothing more he can do, you are going to die. Your mother weeps uncontrollably yet you cannot react because another horrendous pain in your head has doubled you over. Soon, as you stop shaking and begin to relax, the sounds of the doctor and your mother become white noise and your surroundings begin to dull until you prove the doctor right; another person fell victim to the infectious Yellow Fever virus.
There is no definitive history or discovery date, but it is assumed that Yellow Fever originated in Africa and was brought to the Americas by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes “hitchhiking” on trade and slave ships. The first believed outbreak happened in 1648 in the Yucatán. It is “believed” because early documentation of disease and illness was not thoroughly investigated or described, they could have been caused by one thing or another. There is no confirming or denying that there was a Yellow Fever outbreak in 1648, but it is commonly thought to be true. The symptoms documented from that outbreak are the first recorded that best match those of Yellow Fever, then termed “black vomit,” because the infection would cause bloody vomit. Later, it was deemed “Yellow Jack” due to the typical jaundice the infection would cause: a yellowing of the skin, eyes, and other mucous membranes. For the next few centuries, outbreaks would occur near ship trade routes, further showing that the disease was probably brought from Africa on ships. The fictional story of the “Flying Dutchman” was based on stories of Yellow Fever because wherever the Dutchman went, all would perish. Likewise, when an infected ship would come to in port, citizens of that town or city quickly began to take ill and many would die (Dickerson 48). Many times, a town would refuse to let ships port in fear that they would bring sickness with them. In the late 1700s, the city of Philadelphia, then the capital of the newly formed United States of America, lost nearly one tenth of its population due to an outbreak of Yellow Fever. Because of the outbreak, many well known political figures fled the city and the...

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