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Yellow Jack: How Yellow Fever Ravaged America and Walter Reed Discovered Its Deadly Secrets

ISBN: 978-0-471-47261-2
288 pages
March 2005
Yellow Jack: How Yellow Fever Ravaged America and Walter Reed Discovered Its Deadly Secrets (0471472611) cover image


The end of a scourge

"The prayer that has been mine for twenty years, that I might be permitted in some way or some time to do something to alleviate human suffering, has been answered!"
--Major Walter Reed, writing to his wife, New Year's Eve, 1900

As he wrote to his wife of his stunning success in the mission to identify the cause of yellow fever and find a way to eradicate the disease, Walter Reed had answered the prayers of millions. For more than 250 years, the yellow jack had ravaged the Americas, bringing death to millions and striking panic in entire populations. The very mention of its presence in a city or town produced instant chaos as thousands fled in terror, leaving the frail, the weak, and the ill to fend for themselves.

Yellow Jack tracks the history of this deadly scourge from its earliest appearance in the Caribbean 350 years ago, telling the compelling story of a few extraordinarily brave souls who struggled to understand and eradicate yellow fever. Risking everything for the cause of science and humanity, Reed and his teammates on the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Board invaded the heart of enemy territory in Cuba to pursue the disease--and made one of the twentieth century's greatest medical discoveries. This thrilling adventure tells the timeless tale of their courage, ingenuity, and triumph in the face of adversity.
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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction: The Forgotten Scourge 1

1 Yellow Fever Comes to America 7

2 The Capital Under Siege 23

3 Nothing but a Yellow Fever 34

4 Yellow Fever Moves South 47

5 The Nation Threatened 60

6 Yellow Fever’s Odd Couple 75

7 Walter Reed 87

8 Spanish Bullets and Yellow Fever 101

9 The Opportunity of a Lifetime 135

10 “A Soldier’s Chances” 148

11 Putting It All Together 165

12 Affirmation 173

13 Presentation 189

14 Recognition 205

15 Historic Application 215

16 Yellow Fever after Walter Reed 224

Epilogue: After Cuba 240

Afterword: Yellow Fever Today 245

Acknowledgments 249

Notes 250

Bibliography 259

Index 271

Illustrations begin on page 123

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Author Information

JOHN R. PIERCE, M.D. (Col. MC, U.S. Army, Ret.), wrote the series of articles on which this book is based for Stripe, a publication for Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) personnel and included on dcmilitary.com, a Web site for military personnel in the Washington, D.C., area. Pierce recently retired after thirty years of active duty, a significant portion of that spent at WRAMC. With Pierce, JIM WRITER coedited a supplement to the journal Military Medicine on the 1900 Yellow Fever Board.
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"A fascinating examination of how science works in the real world.   This book may inspire future Walter Reeds to solve tomorrow's medical mysteries." (Journal of College Science Teaching)
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