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Yellow fever is caused by a virus and produces symptoms that include fever, nausea, and pain. It is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. It may affect the functioning of the liver, causing the jaundice the inspired its name, and frequently causes death of those infected.
The first mention of yellow fever in America comes in John Winthrop`s History of New England, in which he refers to yellow fever as coming from the West Indies in 1647. The efforts to prevent the crew of the ship that brought the disease from disembarking represent the first attempt at quarantine in the colonies.
An outbreak of yellow fever devastated Philadelphia in 1793. Benjamin Rush, the most prominent physician of the day, advocated bloodletting and attributed the cause to various sources but not the guilty mosquito.
Walter Reed, an army doctor from Virginia, recognized that the twin scourges of yellow fever and malaria would prevent the completion of the Panama Canal unless contained, so he undertook to drain the swamps close to the construction. His success through this program showed the way to controlling the diseases.