"As To Yellow Fever"

Author: Author: Wall, John P. (John Perry), b. 1867

Date: n.d.

Series: S 915

(Page 2 of 6)

Early Florida Medicine



By John P. Wall, M. D.

(Reprinted from the Florida Times Union)




Pg. 1/Column 1


Since the appearance of the yellow fever in

Tampa, I have noticed much in the Times-

Union, more or less reflecting upon me,

for having advised the people of Tampa to

get away from the place and thus escape the

fever. The authors of these criticisms have

shown themselves such ignoramuses – and

among them are some of your editorial staff

that I would hardly deign to notice them

but for the hope that it may prove of some

benefit in the future.


Yellow fever is one of the few diseases of

which little is positively and definitely

known as to its cause, nature (in a patha-

logical sense) and exact mode of propagation.

For at least a century, all these points have

been discussed: and whether we know much

more about them now than did our progeny-

tors of the last century is extremely prob-

lematical, as the literature of the disease

abundantly proves. Medical opinion has

been divided as to its origin, transmissibil-

ity and contagiousness from its first inva-

sion of the shores of North America.


It is generally conceded now, however,

that it is a xymotic disease, and that if it

does not have its origin on our shores in

filth, at least the latter is an essential factor to

the generation and propagation of its infect-

ing germs, or morbitic agent – the poison

that produces the disease. Why it should

take on a comparatively mild type in certain

seasons and manifest no marked disposition

to spread at times is another of its problems

for which we cannot account at the present



The few facts that we do know about yel-

low fever are that it is a disease attended

with a considerable mortality, ranging from

10 to 75 per cent.; and that the atmosphere

of the city where it is prevailing sooner or

later becomes infected – poisoned with its

morbific agent; and that those susceptible

to the disease, i.e., not being acclimated, or

protected by a previous attack, will in all

probability take the disease. Experience has

taught us this much, at least.


Yellow fever, then, being a xymotic dis-

ease – having its origin probably in the filth

of the slave ship – the necessity and import-

tance of sanitation – to keep air, water and


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soil clean and pure, become too obvious to

the ordinary mind to require any arguments

to demonstrate.

The Technical Commission of the Inter-

national Conference of Rome (1885) says:

“The measures recommended against

cholera are, in general, applicable to yellow

fever and to other diseases of this class are: the sani-

tary improvement of cities and of vessels

sailing from infected ports, isolation of the sic,

and disinfection of infected or suspect-

ed articles and localities.”


If, then, the same sanitary prophylaxis

for cholera is good for yellow fever, why is

not the doctrine and practice of England in

regard to cholera applicable here to yellow

fever? Instead of a quarantine of detention,

except as to the sick, the English pursue the

following enlightened and common sense

plan, as set forth in an editorial in the

London Lancet of the 20 th of last August:

“All sick of cholera or diarrhea are dealt

with and isolated at our ports; but the

healthy are not herded with the sick, as is

done under quarantine. They (the healthy

are allowed to go where they will, provided

they submit to proper supervision, by giving

the address of the destination to which

they are traveling. These precautions form,

however, only the fringe of our system of

prevention. Our population, knowing that

the Government will no longer pretend to’

guarantee any measure of safety by drawing

a quarantine around the country, have of

their own free will set themselves to remove

from their midst those conditions under

which imported cholera can alone spread;

and, according to Dr. Thorne, they have,

apart from all Government dictation, spent

during the past ten years, byway of loan or

in current expenditure, over eighty millions

sterling for purposes mainly of a sanitary

character. When quarantining countries

can give evidence of their alternative sys-

tem by submitting to any such expenditure,

then it will be time enough for them to urge



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