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Yellow Jack: How Yellow Fever Ravaged America and Walter Reed Discovered Its Deadly Secrets Hardcover – March 29, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0471472612 ISBN-10: 0471472611 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (March 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471472611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471472612
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Skylark Thibedeau VINE VOICE on June 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Up until about 100 years ago every summer in the South was met with dread as the Yellow Jack would invade cities and the epidemics would last until the first frost.

This book provides a history of those dark days and the triumphs and tragedies of the group of Scientists and Doctors such as Walter Reed who studied and fought the disease that killed more americans than Spanish bullets during the Spanish American War.

Yellow Fever spread to the New World from Africa carried over by mosquito larvae in the water casks of European Slave ships ferrying Africans to the Dread Sugar plantations of the Carribean. Trading ships from the Carribean would frequently land in american ports carrying the mosquitoes and people infected with yellow fever frequently causing epidemics along the atlantic coasts plagueing such modern urban areas as Philadelphia and Baltimore.

This history of yellow fever shows why there is so much concern today with imported diseases such as West Nile and Avian Flu.

The book is also a good history in the advance of science and medicine since the 18th century as peominent American physicians of the 1780's still bled their patients to balance their humours and blamed the epidemic on stinky garbage vapours while in the 1890's the doctors were seeking out an insectivoid vector for the disease.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By PAD on February 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Highly recommended. From the start just like a good mystery, this book grips and holds your attention as it unfolds the discovery of what causes yellow fever. The rolls of the individuals in academia and medicine are insightful. Vivid descriptions portray the full affect of both the human and economic devastation caused by this disease. Had is not been for the few couragous individuals who chose to pursue their beliefs and instincts against the mainstream beliefs of the day, there is no telling when the cause may have been discovered. Their stories are amazing as well. The book is factual and well documented. The challenges faced by the individuals, cities, and countries during the time of the book are not unlike those faced today in searching for the cause and cure of illnesses such as West Nile or the flu.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Seemed to be a well researched and well written book, and a fascinating topic. On the cusp of a sea change in medicine worldwide, these Doctors on the frontier like Walter Reed, Carlos Finlay (of Cuba), and William Gorgas helped to nearly eradicate a once deadly illness through creative reasoning and disciplined scientific method. While not a complete page-turner, and not quite able to transport the reader to the time and place-I still found it to be a well organized, informative, and ultimately interesting book. It's not long and easily worth the time. I got interested in this subject after reading a David McCullough book about the Panama Canal, a project that most likely would not have been attempted by the U.S. had not the centuries old myster of the cause of Yellow Fever been at last solved.
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