From Publishers Weekly
There isn't much new in this workmanlike examination of yellow fever, which focuses on the American impact of this deadly hemorrhagic disease closely related to the West Nile virus. While mostly a tropical disease, yellow fever reached as far north as Philadelphia in 1793. But particularly in the South, deadly plagues were the norm year after year. Pierce, a physician and retired colonel with the U.S. Army, and coauthor Writer describe the debates over the cause of the disease, which many thought originated in the Caribbean, and the work to determine the mode of transmission. In 1900, after the Spanish-American War, Walter Reed headed the Yellow Fever Board sent to Havana and rather quickly confirmed earlier suspicions that mosquitoes were responsible; in remarkably short order the board rid the entire island of yellow fever. But the disease's virulence and the harsh working conditions threatened the researchers themselves. The authors explain this in their hyperbolic style: "Eight loyal and fearless soldiers in the war against an invisible foe had, in the noblest sentiments of the profession, died in hopes of saving others.... [N]o other virus in the history of laboratory research has taken away so many of those working to solve its mysteries." B&w illus. (Apr.)
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From the first time an illness with symptoms like those of yellow fever was reported in the Spanish stronghold at Yucatan and spreading to Havana, Cuba, reduced its population by a third, it took nearly 300 years to pinpoint the cause of that fatal disease. The long effort suffered not from want of trying, according to U.S. Army physician Pierce. Some of the most notable medical minds of their times, including the renowned Benjamin Rush, tackled the puzzle with negligible success. Stubbornly perennial as summer heat, yellow fever continued to wreak havoc in U.S. cities from Philadelphia to New Orleans. Despite the connection French physician Louis Daniel Beauperthuy made in the mid-nineteenth century between yellow fever and mosquitoes, not until after the Spanish-American War did Major Walter Reed and his medical team make serious inroads into cause and cure. Based upon a series of articles Pierce penned for a military medical journal, this chronicle of the rise and eventual fall of yellow fever traces a substantial medical history. Donna ChavezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved