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The Great Fever
Toward an Understanding of Yellow Fever

Checking where mosquitos breed Yellow Fever: Its Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control, Lecture, 1914

In 1914, Dr. Henry Rose Carter gave a series of lectures on yellow fever at the United States Public Health Service School, an institution that grew out of the Marine Hospital Service. While acting as the chief quarantine officer of the Marine Hospital Service in Havana, Carter discussed theories of yellow fever with Walter Reed. In his first lecture on March 26, Carter makes immediately clear and unequivocally the method of infection that his colleague had proven: yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes.


I am directed to tell you something about yellow fever. In the time allotted it is impossible to cover the subject unless so superficially as to be useless to you. I am therefore going to take only one aspect of this disease, the one of most importance and of most interest to you.

You are, or ought to be, sanitarians, and it is the sanitary aspect of yellow fever only that I will present you. I will not discuss the disease, as it concerns the practitioner. I am also going to assume a considerable knowledge of yellow fever in this class, because you have it. I am not going over a lot of facts well known about it, not because they are unimportant, but because you know them, and it would be a waste of time.

As preliminary to the sanitation of any disease we must know its epidemiology, and to know this satisfactorily a knowledge of the method of its conveyance is necessary. Yellow Fever, as you know, is one of the host-borne diseases. The history of the discovery and the demonstration of this by the Army board of which Maj. Reed was chairman are known to you. The subject is extremely interesting, but I have not time to go into it. The findings of the board were, briefly: Yellow fever is contacted by man from the bite of a mosquito, itself infected by having previously bitten a man sick with that disease, and is only thus contracted. The first part is a direct statement of observed facts, the latter a deduction (and a negative one) from the facts; both are not only universally admitted but abundantly proven, which is by no means the same thing. Upon this doctrine all sanitary measures for the control of yellow fever rest.

There are evidently three factors considered in the creed we have mentioned above-the sick man, the mosquito, the well man. There is also implied the infective microorganism of which as yet we know but little.

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