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'Green biased' yellow fever swept through Irish Immigrants in 19th century US
Date:8/6/2012

New research by University of Warwick historian Dr Tim Lockley has found why yellow fever had a green bias in 19th century fever outbreaks in the southern states of the US. Almost half of the 650 people killed by yellow fever in Savannah Georgia in 1854 were Irish immigrants.

Dr Tim Lockley's study is based on four sources: the burial records of Laurel Grove cemetery; the records of the city's Catholic cemetery; the minutes of Savannah's Board of Health; and published lists of the dead in the Savannah Morning News. These sources yielded the names of 650 people who died of yellow fever between early August and the end of November 1854, of which 293 were Irish immigrants (and 10 others were of unknown nationality).

Savannah was not the only southern US city to witness this Irish susceptibility to yellow fever In nineteenth-century New Orleans annual yellow fever outbreaks killed many Irish and German immigrants. This encouraged a view of yellow fever as less serious than other illnesses such as typhoid, and for some locals it was a welcome guarantee against being overrun by "foreigners".

Others were simply dismissive about the appearance of yellow fever as long as it was only affecting the Irish. Savannah doctor Phineas Kollock said at the time :

'..the extremely hot weather . . . has at length developed yellow fever among our Irish population. The disease is mostly confined to the Eastern part of the city. I do not feel apprehensive of its extending its ravages very much, although it is probable that we shall have cases occurring until frost."

However a week later his view had changed. The fever had become particularly "malignant" and he then wrote that "I have determined therefore to send my family to Habersham [County] immediately."

Yellow fever is a tropical disease, endemic in West Africa, the Caribbean and parts of Latin America. It is a virus that cannot be transmitted via normal human-to-human int
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Contact: Dr. Tim Lockley
t.j.lockley@warwick.ac.uk
44-078-760-51467
University of Warwick
Source:Eurekalert

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