Yellow Fever: Remembering a 1793 epidemic

| By Sara, 6th grade |

April 2020 … Yellow Fever caused one of the worst epidemics in American history in 1793. In some ways, it can be compared to the coronavirus. But, first let’s learn about the Yellow Fever epidemic. 

Award-winning journalist and author Stephen Fried recent provided some details about the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 for East Norriton Bulldog Bulletin reporters during a teleconference interview.

The Yellow Fever epidemic was a nightmare in Philadelphia, he said. Everyone was so scared of dying. People would not touch each other or come near each other. People thought that the disease was in the air. They would do crazy things that they thought would keep the air around them healthier such as smoking cigars and wearing garlic around their necks, Mr. Fried said. It was so scary for everyone.

Some of the symptoms for Yellow Fever are similar to flu such as fever, chills, and head pain, he said. But there were some other things that made it clear you had the yellow fever. For instance, people’s skin and eyes turned a shade of yellow and they vomited black vomit, Mr. Fried said. That’s when they were sure they had yellow fever.

Years later, scientists learned that mosquitoes infected people with Yellow Fever. The Yellow Fever epidemic would come and go during many summers in Philadelphia and other East Coast cities, Mr. Fried said. It would die down in the winter when the mosquitoes died.

Yellow Fever still exists in tropical areas of Africa and South America. Don’t be alarmed, though. It isn’t something to worry about if you live in the United States today, Mr. Fried said.

Let’s get to the similarities with the Yellow Fever and coronavirus. There aren’t many similarities. But in both cases, people were and are scared. A cure hasn’t been found for either disease, Mr. Fried said.

Now here are some of the differences. The coronavirus infects people through other people, while the yellow fever travels by mosquitoes. The yellow fever is much more deadly than the coronavirus. In 1793, the yellow fever killed at least 10% of Philadelphia’s population, Mr. Fried said. He said it is too early to know what the final death rate will be for coronavirus, but it is much lower.

To learn more about the yellow fever epidemic watch my interview with Stephen Fried.


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