For most Americans, Yellow Fever may seem like a mysterious disease, or a plague from the distant past. There’s good reason our lack of knowledge about this virus. The last major US outbreak happened in 1905, when 900 people died in New Orleans.
The illness owes its name to the fact that some people experience yellowing skin due to liver disease. Other symptoms include fever, aches and pains, vomiting and bleeding.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the virus caused mass casualties. Outbreaks from Boston to Philadelphia to Orleans resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. In 1900 the US military formed the United States Army Yellow Fever Commission to find solutions to the decades-long scourge. Government funded research confirmed that mosquitoes were responsible for infecting humans. Mosquito control programs improved sanitation,eliminated standing water, and fumigated breeding grounds. In 1940 the scientists developed a highly effective vaccine. The vaccine provided lifetime protection to 99% of people who received it. This immunization, combined with the widespread use of the insecticide DDT, virtually eliminated the Yellow Fever from the US for decades.
While Yellow Fever remains under control for now, the US has seen an uptick in other disease spread by mosquitos. Malaria, dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus have popped up in Texas, Florida and a few other states. A warmer climate fever has allowed mosquitoes to thrive in new regions. Yellow fever has expanded in other parts of the worlds, and experts have grown concerned that it could be the next virus that mosquitos could reintroduce in the US.