Winner of the Newbery Honor Book Award
Winner of the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
National Book Award Finalist
The summer of 1793 was so hot and humid that the swamps around Philadelphia turned to muddy puddles and swarms of mosquitoes filled the air. As the church bells tolled, it was becoming clear — the city was being ravaged by an unknown killer.
Long before SARS and West Nile virus, Yellow Fever was a medical mystery that forced thousands in the nation’s temporary capital to flee and brought the workings of the federal government to a virtual halt. This is a riveting account of this country’s first large-scale medical epidemic.
This is the story of how half the city’s residents fled and half of those who remained died; neighboring towns, cities and states barricaded themselves; Washington himself fled, setting off a constitutional crisis; and bloodletting caused blood to run through the streets. It is also the story of a little known chapter in Black History in which free blacks nursed the sick only to be later condemned for their heroic efforts.
Meticulously researched, first-hand accounts, newspaper clippings, death lists, and period engravings recreate the fear and panic while exploring the political, social, cultural, medical and scientific history of the times. A final chapter explores the causes of the epidemic and provides a wake-up call about the potential for epidemics today.