Yellow Fever: Warfare’s Ancient Enemy

Yellow fever killed 2000 soldiers during the Spanish American War and the occupation that followed. The disease still has a fatality rate of about fifty percent. Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Yellow fever was an ancient scourge of 18th and 19th century battlefields, causing more fatalities than bullets, cannon, or swords. The dreadful disease, which was brought from Africa to the tropical Americas by the slave trade, struck military camps without warning, decimating entire armies.

Child Soldiers Past and Present

Mayi Mayi child soldiers at Mangangu 'Political Retraining Camp'

Historians have referred to children in the Middle Ages as “little adults” and children at the time were routinely involved in conflict. The “rights of the child” are relatively contemporary, however, children continue to be recruited and trained at very young ages in a practice woven deep in the history of many cultures.

The Continuing War on Yellow Fever

The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits the yellow fever virus from one person to another. Control of the mosquito greatly aids control of the disease. Image courtesy of the US CDC.

Mosquito abatement programs pioneered by William Gorgas in Cuba and Panama led to immediate relief from yellow fever. Later, his discoveries played a major role in WWII, and still help with control of the disease today. We have a vaccine, developed by Max Theiler, but there is still no cure and outbreaks occur.