Throwback Thursday: Yellow Fever


BROWNSVILLE, Texas — On the formation of Brownsville in 1848 there was a Yellow fever plague. It claimed one-third of people in the town. As evidence of the plague, there now stands the Old City Cemetery.

In the archives of the city’s medical history, it was written that at Fort Brown there were many people dying and there were various levels of comatose conditions of the affected. The medical staff wondered if a person was dead or alive. To find out, they would tie a string around the little finger. After an hour if that finger was swollen, the person was alive. If it was not they were dead.

It was Dr. William C. Gorgas who began studying Yellow fever at the end of the 19th century. At the time the world was devastated by Yellow Fever. During the Spanish-American War, more troops died from the malady than from combat.

In the early days of treating these viruses and epidemics, it was understood that keeping those who were sick had to be quarantined. Doctors recognized this and did so religiously. It is a great lament that south Texas and northern Mexico had an affair with this death angel. It has changed the entire procedure as to how we colonized this part of the world.

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