How Yellow Fever Ravaged America and Walter Reed Discovered Its Deadly SecretsBook - 2005
"The prayer that has been mine for twenty years, that I might bepermitted in some way or some time to do something to alleviatehuman suffering, has been answered!"
--Major Walter Reed, writing to his wife, New Year's Eve,1900
As he wrote to his wife of his stunning success in the mission toidentify the cause of yellow fever and find a way to eradicate thedisease, Walter Reed had answered the prayers of millions. For morethan 250 years, the yellow jack had ravaged the Americas, bringingdeath to millions and striking panic in entire populations. Thevery mention of its presence in a city or town produced instantchaos as thousands fled in terror, leaving the frail, the weak, andthe ill to fend for themselves.
Yellow Jack tracks the history of this deadly scourge from itsearliest appearance in the Caribbean 350 years ago, telling thecompelling story of a few extraordinarily brave souls who struggledto understand and eradicate yellow fever. Risking everything forthe cause of science and humanity, Reed and his teammates on theU.S. Army Yellow Fever Board invaded the heart of enemy territoryin Cuba to pursue the disease--and made one of the twentiethcentury's greatest medical discoveries. This thrilling adventuretells the timeless tale of their courage, ingenuity, and triumph inthe face of adversity.
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John R. Pierce, a physician retired from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and Jim Writer describe the history of yellow fever epidemics in the United States and the research that led to the eradication of yellow fever in much of the world. After briefly outlining what they plan to discuss, the authors describe the symptoms of yellow fever, its mode of transmission, and the areas in which it is endemic. Then they describe how the disease is believed to have traveled from Africa to the United States through the slave trade. This leads to a discussion of outbreaks in the United States, starting with a detailed discussion of the 1793 epidemic in Philadelphia, then the capital of the United States. They also describe how the disease ravaged the American South, particularly the 1878 epidemic that killed 20,000 people. Their discussion of the yellow fever outbreak that accounted for the majority of American deaths during the Spanish-American War leads to the central focus of the book, the efforts of the United States Army Yellow Fever Board team led by Walter Reed to trace the cause of yellow fever. The authors devote several chapters to this discussion and how the research conducted by Reed's team led to measures that largely eliminated yellow fever from Havana and the Panama Canal zone. They conclude by describing the subsequent research that led to Max Theiler's discovery of a vaccine for yellow fever, while explaining why it is not possible to eradicate the disease.
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