Yellow Fever in the Americas

Simon Harcourt-Smith describes how the Americas were plagued by Yellow Fever, borne by mosquitoes from the seventeenth century until the early twentieth.

The imaginative European, hearing fabulous reports of the new-found world, without braving the hazards of the Atlantic, might well have been excused for fancying that in their search for Cathay the conquistadores had stumbled into a Garden of Eden with hardly a serpent to trouble it.

Here, surely, was a continent teeming not only with gold, silver and emeralds, but also with luscious fruits that went in no need of tending, behind shores littered with ambergris, and cleansed by the gentlest of zephyrs. As for disease, was there not here a new untainted world?

As late as the mid-seventeenth century, Andrew Marvell, hymning the ‘remote Bermudas’, could only envisage a brand-new Paradise that offered mankind a brand-new Elysium.

Of course, in those days knowledge travelled at a snail’s pace.

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