Louisiana Woman – New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic

 

In reading about Caroline’s daughter, Laura, having died of Yellow Fever she would have been one of thousands to have succumbed to this dreaded disease in New Orleans although it affected many other states as well.

The outbreaks occurred off and on starting in 1796.  In the summer of 1853, 29,120 people contracted the disease and 8,647 died from it.  Newspapers and citizens began to call it the “Black Day.”  In the 100-year period between 1800 and 1900, yellow fever assaulted New Orleans for sixty-seven summers.

Before the source of the disease was discovered, people tried many things for a “cure.”  Physicians relied upon bloodletting, blistering, purging, leeching, vomiting, and mercury.  Note the advertising for leeches.

It was also common in the antebellum era to shoot cannons and burn barrels of tar during epidemics hoping the disrupting the dangerous “miasma” in the air, which was believed to be a cause of the disease.

The Yellow Fever attacks in Louisiana occurred less after the Civil War.  At mosquito.JPGthe time, physicians believed that the disease was bacterial and was transmitted through human waste.  However, in 1881 a Cuban physician, Dr. Charles Finlay, had developed a theory that the disease was transmitted through the common mosquito but his findings were dismissed.  Dr. Walter Reed proved Finlay’s theory in 1900.  The epidemics ended in New Orleans in October 1905.

Source:  Kelley, Laura D. “Yellow Fever.” In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson.  Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010-. Article published January 16, 2011.  http://www.knowla.org/entry/766/.

Photo Source:  Swedish Leeches – Newspaper Advertisement, January 9, 1852, From the Daily Delta. Photo Source:  Mosquito, http://historyofcollierville.wikispaces.com/Yellow+Fever.

Photo Source:  Yellow Fever –  http://www.louisianahistory.org/education/quiz4.html, Courtesy of Harper’s Weekly.

Photo Source:  The female Aegi aegepti mosquito,” The Secret of the Yellow Death, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York, New York, 2009, p. 28

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