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August 5, 1983

Walter Reed and Yellow Fever

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City.

JAMA. 1983;250(5):659-662. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340050071035

Yellow fever was a disease of unknown cause, curious, almost haphazard spread, short duration, and, often, a high fatality rate. It died out soon after a frost and did not appear in cool climates or high elevations. Some thought filth caused its spread — that it arose in the fetid, reeking decay around docks. Others believed it to be imported, mainly by ships from tropical lands. It rarely attacked nurses, doctors, or hospital attendants. The very mystery increased the sickening fear it created. It brought business to a halt. People fled from it if they could. Thus, when the manner of its spread was learned and could be stopped, it was stripped of its lethal secrets. We today who go careless and carefree are a forgetful people.

The article reprinted in this issue of The Journal was the classic contribution of the Yellow Fever Board appointed by Surgeon General Sternberg