Charlotte Taylor     Her Life and Times

West Indies ]


Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever is by definition an acute, infectious intestinal disease of tropical and semi-tropical regions, caused by a filterable virus transmitted by the bite of a mosquito (genus Aedus) and characterized by hemorrhages, jaundice, vomiting, and fatty degeneration of the liver: also called black vomit, vomito and yellow jack.  After the bite of an infecting mosquito there is an incubation period of several days while the virus is multiplying in the body.  Severe cases start characteristically with a sudden onset of fever, headache and pain in the abdomen, back and limbs.  The infected person may hemorrhage and vomit blood, and because the virus injures and destroys liver cells, jaundice is common.  The kidneys may start to produce blood and protein in the urine. Recovery can start at any stage and is remarkably complete, conferring lifelong immunity.  However in a certain percentage of cases, there is relentless deterioration ending in death.  There is no known practical way of eliminating the yellow fever virus from the vast tropical forests of Africa and South America, where monkeys are the hosts and mosquitoes are the carriers.  Present day vaccination is available and effective for those travelling to the Tropics.

From Jamaica - The Old and the New by Mary Manning Carley

Excerpt from Page 32

"… The chief curse of Jamaica, yellow fever, which made the island a by-word for generations as a real 'white man's grave', was introduced with the slave trade from Africa, but was at its most virulent during the 18th century."

Excerpt from Page 81

"… Mosquitoes were for centuries an appalling menace to human health and were responsible for the terrible casualties in yellow fever epidemics."

Excerpt from Page 155

"… Kingston … Famous regiments have been stationed here … Records of arrivals of Regiments of Foot in Jamaica exist in the old Jamaica Almanacks from 1780."

Excerpt from Page 160

"… St. Andrews - The old court house and church are still there. The latter dates from 1700 … There are some ancient tombs in the churchyard, many to serving soldiers and sailors stricken down by that old scourge of Jamaica - yellow fever."

From The Cradle of the Deep by Sir Frederick Treves

Excerpts from Pages 121 and 122

"… St. Lucia … A little way down the side of the Morna Fortune is the officers' cemetery. The road leading to it, which was once so well worn, is now overgrown with grass. This ever silent gathering place of the British is the most beautiful spot on the side of the hill. A number of graves are blackened with age. Some are of stone, others of weather worn brick. Most of them tell the same story - the roll call of the Yellow Death, the major of this regiment or the lieutenant of that, and so many of them mere lads. The loss of life among the British troops in the West Indies and notably in St. Lucia, was in those days appalling. The majority of the deaths was due to yellow fever... In 1780 - four newly raised regiments were ordered to Jamaica. They stopped on their way to St. Lucia, where they contracted yellow fever. By the time the transports reached Kingston Harbour they had lost 168 men by death, and had 780 on the sick list. During the course of the first five months, after the survivors had been stationed at Jamaica, 1100 more died of the fever and other diseases."

Excerpt from Page 224

"… Circa 1598 - The pirate peer had hoped to make San Juan a base from which he could conduct an extensive and profitable buccaneering business in the adjacent districts. Unhappily for this purpose the fever fell upon his men, and killed them in such numbers that his force was soon reduced to half its strength. The right Honourable the Earl of Cumberland, M.A. Cambridge and pirate, feared nothing he could see, but this invisible horror filled him with a numbing dread. He saw the strong man dragged to the ground by unseen hands, his face become yellow as if from fear, his eyes glare from his head as if he beheld the vampire face to face, his fingers wandering to and fro as if in search of a clue, his voice toneless and inhuman, like the voice of a ghoul."

Excerpt from Page 303

" … The most human building in Jamaica in the town of Port Royal is the old church … A tablet announces that it was rebuilt in the years 1725-1726. … The walls are covered with memorials and tablets of every type and period. They tell the ever-repeated story of men lost in gales or killed in action, of men who sank with their ships, and above all of the host who were sacrificed as a tribute to the Minotaur of yellow fever. How many thousands of British sailors and soldiers lie buried in the sands around Port Royal no chronicle can tell. Those whose names still linger on the walls of the ancient church are but a mere fraction of the multitude. The monuments are erected by widows, old shipmates, sisters and daughters."

Excerpts from Pages 352 and 353

"… An attack upon Cartagena, Venezuela was made in 1741 by Admiral Vernon, otherwise known as 'Old Grog' or the 'Hero of Porto Bello, Panama' … One month after the fleet had appeared off the Boca Chica a force of 1500 men was landed to attack Fort San Lazar. The assault was made just before daybreak but affairs at headquarters were so mismanaged that the English were repulsed with 179 killed, 459 wounded and 16 taken prisoners. During the progress of these events yellow fever broke out in the fleet, with the result that no less than 500 men died, while over 1,000 were lying sick."

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Page Last Revised: October 09, 2000