Chapter 9 : Yellow Fever: the Saffron Scourge

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In September 1793, the federal government was forced to shut down when six clerks in the Treasury Department contracted yellow fever, five others fled to New York, and three workers in the post office and seven officers in the Customs Service became ill. Alexander Hamilton, who at the time was the Secretary of the Treasury, came down with yellow fever and left Philadelphia, but after being refused entry into New York City he and his wife traveled to Green Bush in upstate New York to stay with his wife's father. Yellow fever came to be known as Bronze John or the Saffron Scourge because of its telltale symptom: jaundice. Fear of the Saffron Scourge drove many people from the coastal communities, and those who could afford to do so left the South during what was called the summer "sickly season." Yellow fever did not occur in winter in parts of the American South where winters were cold and frosty. Perhaps most importantly, at the time no one knew what caused yellow fever or how to stop its spread. In one area 15 mosquitoes that had previously bitten yellow fever patients were released and allowed to bite volunteers; volunteers on the other side of the screening were not exposed to mosquitoes. The building of the Panama Canal was seriously affected by the problems of mosquito-borne disease, principally yellow fever. The last fatal case of yellow fever occurred in Panama in 1906.

Citation: Sherman I. 2007. Yellow Fever: the Saffron Scourge, p 143-157. In Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816346.ch9
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