Yellow Fever In Philadelphia

The Outbreak of 1793

History of the Outbreak

In 1793 Philadelphia had a population of around 50,000 people, and the number was steadily increasing with french refugees from the Caribbean. The summer of 1793 was abnormally hot, and caused dry weather and low water levels, allowing for increased breeding of insects. All of these conditions combined to create an epidemic when a french person brought yellow fever with them to Philadelphia, and was bit by a mosquito. The mosquito then transferred that disease to a healthy person and it spread rapidly from there. At first the deaths were few and far between but eventually it jumped from 45 deaths a day to 1,000 deaths in October. Two important historical figures during this epidemic were a physician named Benjamin Rush, and a french physician from the Caribbean named Dr. Jean Devèze. Rush took an aggressive approach to the disease and bleed his patients while administering large amounts of mercury. Devèze on the other hand refused to believe the disease was contagious and disapproved of Rushes treatments.

The Vector

The spread of yellow fever during this outbreak was caused by mosquitoes and they are the vector as well. Mosquitoes can transport the virus through biting humans, as well as transmitting it through their eggs. The mosquito insures regular transmission through reproduction and infection.

Cellular Effects of Yellow Fever


The virus is broken down into three stages, each with their own symptoms.
In the Early Stage symptoms include fever, bloodshot eyes, headaches and muscle pains, vomiting, and reduced urine. Then their is a brief remission stage where the victim may feel healed and better than before. After this follows the Yellow Stage whose symptoms are jaundice, fever, black vomit, GI bleeding, delirium, coma, and death.

What The Virus Does to The Body

This virus replicates in the blood and tissues, potentially damaging the body's vital organs. The liver is often affected. When liver functions declines, the skin and eyes become yellow, a condition known as jaundice, and the body's ability to form blood clots is compromised. Difficult-to-control bleeding may occur from areas such as the intestines. Damage to the heart, brain, and other vital organs can cause shock, coma, and increased susceptibility to bacterial infections. If a person survives a severe infection, it may take several months to full recover.

The End of The Outbreak

As the virus continued to ravage the city more and more people began to leave, leading to a decreased number of people being infected. Eventually with the onset of winter the virus was halted as the mosquitoes carrying it began to die.
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