New Orleans is swamp and as such characterized by a subtropical climate. It is hot, humid, and rainy for much of the year leading to standing water and the proliferation of mosquitoes and their consequent illnesses. Yellow Fever would have a profound impact on the city and began early on in its history and running through 1905. Yellow fever is an RNA virus belong to the genus Flavivirus and is related to West Nile virus. It is primarily transmitted through the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. People infected with the virus are infectious or “viremic” to mosquitoes shortly before the onset of fever and up to 5 days after the onset. Incubation is approximately 3 to 6 days.
Most people infected will show no signs of symptoms. Others will suffer high fever and aches while a rare few will enter the toxic phase; presenting with jaundice, bloody vomit and a bleeding from the eyes, ears, and nose. Despit the fact that it is difficult to get an epidemic raging, New Orleans would see its fair share of deaths. The worst epidemic to strike a single city in the history of the United States occurred in New Orleans in 1853. We may never know the true death toll as the city was overwhelmed by the number of deaths and has always harbored a large transient population. Some numbers place the estimated death toll as high as 15,000 in that summer. One day recorded just over 200 deaths alone. The economic impact would have been substantial. Any news of a Yellow Fever epidemic would dry up port activity as no one would visit the city and no one would accept ships leaving the New Orleans. By 1905, the connection between the fever and mosquitoes was established and the city launched an aggressive campaign to target standing water and thus helped to eradicate the disease from the city.
Crescent City Historic Tours