Gwen Smith 09/25/2012 THE AMERICAN PLAGUE Basic statistics about the number of countries and states stricken with yellow fever, as well as the number of people affected, were taken Conclusions of the Board of Experts authorized by congress to investigate the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. The reports also estimate the cost of the 1878 epidemic as $ 200 million, which today would be calculated as over $ 350 million. The quote about yellow fever striking the Atlantic and Gulf states with more force than the one that bombed Pearl Harbor was taken from J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson’s Insects and History.
The suggestion that yellow fever was the most dreaded epidemic disease for 200 years comes from Khaled Bloom’s The Mississippi Valley’s Great Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. The yellow fever was directly linked to the slave trade can be traced as far back as the mid-nineteenth century. Some suggested that yellow fever was not only the result of slavery, having been introduced by the African slave trade, but that the disease served as a penalty or punishment, afflicting those where the institution prevailed. It was not uncommon for people to attach greater meaning to epidemics of disease – it still happens today.
Even the word plague implies punishment in biblical terms. Yellow Fever hit New York City in 1799, 1803, 1805, and 1821. Temporary housing and business sprang up. The 1822 fever epidemic was an especially virulent one, and many New Yorker’s settled in The Village for good, finally adjoining it to New York City. Napoleon lost 23,000 troops to yellow fever in Haiti and sold his Louisiana holdings to Thomas Jefferson, wanting to abandon conquests in this pestilent place. Theories about why the 1878 yellow fever epidemic proved so deadly have appeared in a variety of publications.