Thursday, October 18, 2007

I've been doing research today on signs and symptoms of yellow fever for my next novel. There's a saying around here that it was DDT and air-conditioning that civilized Florida. There's some validity to that. We still had yellow fever epidemics in Florida well into the 20th century. If you walk through the older cemeteries you can see clusters of epidemic victims' graves. Once the mosquito was identified by Dr. Walter Reed and his team as the vector for the disease, a vaccine could be developed and eradication efforts could begin. We still get mosquito fogging trucks rolling through at the height of the season, though they use different chemicals now. And air-conditioning boosted home construction and sales after WWII, sending Florida's population soaring.

Now, some would say that was a mixed blessing. I'll leave that to future generations to debate. However, "yellowjack" as it was known, could still make a comeback. Cases have been found in the US in the last 10 years, and the disease would run like wildfire through the blood of a "virgin" population in the 21st century, especially with the ease of travel between hospitable locales like Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

Our local health department is reminding people to avoid peak mosquito periods if they have to go outside, and to cover up and use DEET if they are out. Good advice, especially following the heavy rains we had last week.

1 comment:

L said...

I remember living in Louisiana and being worried about West Nile. It was all about avoiding the skeets.