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Chapter 1 : Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever

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Abstract:

In 1793, Philadelphia experienced an outbreak of yellow fever which shredded the fabric of civil society. The understanding of infectious diseases was to change dramatically in the next century, with the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch establishing the germ theory. Just about a century after the 1793 yellow fever outbreak, the first understanding of viruses as filterable agents requiring living cells for propagation was established separately in the 1890s by Dmitri Ivanowski and Martinus Beijerinck. Shortly thereafter, yellow fever was the first human virus shown to be a filterable agent. With the Philadelphia epidemic of 1793 as a dramatic backdrop, the details follow of how germ theory was proven and how the concepts of viral diseases, including yellow fever, were experimentally determined. Walter Reed and James Carroll presciently noted that the most effective means of controlling the spread of yellow fever was through destruction of mosquito breeding areas and prevention of mosquitoes biting the sick. It was clear from the classic studies of the Yellow Fever Commission that transmission experiments had to be performed in human subjects. However, that presented significant ethical issues, not only for potentially lethal viral infections such as yellow fever but also for permanently disabling anterior poliomyelitis.

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1

Key Concept Ranking

Yellow Fever
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Human Viral Diseases
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Yellow fever virus
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Infectious Diseases
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Figures

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Figure 1

Specter of death waiting over Panama (U. J. Keppler, 1904). Yellow fever, which had been termed “the American Plague,” struck Philadelphia in 1793. It later threatened the construction of the Panama Canal, as shown in this cover illustration for , a political satire and humor magazine. (Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.) doi:10.1128/9781555818586.ch1.f1

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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Figure 2

van Leeuwenhoek exhibiting his microscopes for Catherine of England (painting by Pierre Brissaud). Leeuwenhoek first described bacteria viewed through his early microscopes as “animalcules.” (Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.) doi:10.1128/9781555818586.ch1.f2

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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Figure 3

Robert Koch, about 1908. Koch developed the methodology that allowed the emergence of bacteriology as a science. In addition, he isolated the bacteria of tuberculosis and cholera, age-old scourges of humankind. (Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.) doi:10.1128/9781555818586.ch1.f3

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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Figure 4

Martinus Beijerinck in his laboratory, May 1921. Beijerinck, like Ivanowski, demonstrated that tobacco mosaic disease could be transmitted by sap which had passed through bacteriological filters. He also demonstrated the need for living cells to replicate the disease-causing factor, which he called (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain.) doi:10.1128/9781555818586.ch1.f4

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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Figure 5

Henry Rose Carter, 1909. As a member of the Marine Hospital Service, he was able to deduce a delay between primary and secondary cases of yellow fever. This extrinsic incubation period implied the need for another, nonhuman, host, later shown to be the mosquito. He was assigned to the Panama Canal Zone in 1904 to work on yellow fever. (Courtesy of Historical Collections & Services, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia.) doi:10.1128/9781555818586.ch1.f5

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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Figure 6

George Miller Sternberg. Known as America’s first bacteriologist, he produced the first textbook of bacteriology in the United States. He was Surgeon General of the Army from 1893 to 1902, during which time he appointed the Yellow Fever Commission. (Courtesy of the Historical Collections & Services, Claude Moore Health Services Library, University of Virginia.) doi:10.1128/9781555818586.ch1.f6

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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Figure 7

The Yellow Fever Commission consisted of (upper left) Walter Reed, who led the Commission; (lower left) James Carroll, who performed the filtration experiment; (upper right) Aristides Agramonte; and (lower right) Jesse W. Lazear, who became infected in the course of the experiments and died. In a remarkably brief period of time at the turn of the 20th century, the Commission under Reed demonstrated that the disease was transmitted by mosquitoes and that it could be transmitted by filtered blood and thus was caused by a virus. (Courtesy of the Historical Collections & Services, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia, except for the image of Walter Reed, courtesy of The National Library of Medicine.) doi:10.1128/9781555818586.ch1.f7

Citation: Booss J, August M. 2013. Fear or Terror on Every Countenance: Yellow Fever, p 1-21. In To Catch a Virus. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818586.ch1
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