Alabama was first visited by
this dread scourge in 1704, when a vessel from Santo Domingo brought the
disease to Fort Louis de la Mobile, then the chief town of French
Louisiana, and barely two years following settlement. The trouble
assumed epidemic proportions, and among those who succumbed was Henri de
Tonti. Since that date there have been many visitations to this and
other towns in the State. In 1873, the disease reached the town of
Huntsville in the Tennessee Valley.
Yellow fever has never been
known to originate in the United States, and all epidemics have been
traceable to the West Indies where, up to a few years since, it existed
throughout the year. The first recorded epidemic in the history of the
world occurred in December, 1493, in Santo Domingo, at the town of
Ysabella, which had been only that month founded by Columbus, during his
second voyage to America.
Since the occupation of Cuba
in 1899 by the United States, when the cause of the spread of the
disease was ascertained, and Havana and other towns were cleaned up,
there has been no recurrence of yellow fever in Alabama except in
sporadic cases. The last reported cases were in 1905, when it manifested
itself at Castleberry, at Montgomery and on board a vessel in Mobile
Harbor. The subjects at Castleberry and Montgomery were refugees from
regulations have in a large measure been responsible for the arrest of
the trouble in recent years, the United States Public Health Service
having been very strict in its enforcement.
A survey shows the mortality
rate at Mobile in all epidemics to be high. This is accounted for
principally from the fact of laxity by municipal authorities in the
enforcement of preventive measures and quarantines during the early days
of the epidemics. The suppression of facts in reference to the
prevalence of the disease has also contributed to its spread. Even as
late as 1899 the State health authorities were severely criticised for
reporting the disease immediately after it manifested itself, it being
felt that injury in a financial way was done by circulating the
information. Prevalence of the disease in other towns in the State is
traceable to refugees from Mobile, New Orleans, or Pensacola in all
cases. Prior to the discovery of the mosquito theory in 1899, no cleanup
campaign had ever been waged, and practically no preventative efforts
were used except disinfectants, the popular theory being that the coming
of the first frost was the only means of arresting the trouble.
Statistics show that the large per cent of deaths was among refugees who
returned to the infected districts after the first frost, contracted the
fever and died. Many cases among negroes have been reported, but the
percentage of deaths among them has always been small.
Below will be found
statistics of recurrence, cases, deaths, periods covered and other items
of importance. For early years but few facts are available, although
there can be hardly any doubt that the mortality of the early colonists
in the eighteenth century is to be traced to the scourge of yellow
1704. Severe epidemic among
the then small colony at Mobile, introduced from Santo Domingo. Many
deaths, but no available statistics.
1765, 1766. In each year
severe epidemics at Mobile, introduced from Jamaica. The fatalities were
largely among newcomers, or late arrivals.
1805. Few deaths at Mobile.
Disease introduced from Havana.
1819. Severe epidemic at
Mobile from August 19 to November 30, with 274 deaths. Many cases
occurred after frost. Epidemic at Fort St. Stephens from July 4 to
December 1; and at Fort Claiborne July 4 to December 1. Introduced from
1821. Sporadic cases; and
seven deaths in Mobile during October. Other points not affected.
1822. Severe epidemic at
Blakely. "Only four or five cases" reported at Mobile.
1824. Six deaths in Mobile,
the last September 25, more than a month before frost.
1825. Severe epidemic at
Mobile. The board of health concealed the true conditions, and although
the disease made its appearance as early as July, no official report was
given out until September 2, when only one case was announced. It was
not until September 11 that official admission of epidemic conditions
was made. Many deaths reported.
1826-27. Sporadic cases in
Mobile in September.
1828. Mild epidemic in
Mobile, but no statistics available.
1829. Epidemic in Mobile; 130
deaths. First case August 14.
1837. Four cases appeared
September 20 at Mobile, but no more at that time. On October 2 a frost
fell and those who had left the city returned. On October 10, cases
broke out in every section of the city, and the disease was soon
epidemic, running to the end of November, 350 deaths reported.
1838. Few sporadic cases at
1839. Severe epidemic at
Mobile among the new inhabitants. The first case occurred August 11, and
the last case October 20. Deaths, 450.
1841. A few scattering cases
among inhabitants of the interior, then visiting in Mobile.
1842. Slight epidemic in the
southern section of Mobile; 160 cases, and 70 deaths.
1843. Severe epidemic at
Mobile. First case reported August 24, and the last, November 5. The
public was kept in ignorance, the disease became widespread. Cases
1,350, with 750 deaths. The infection was traced to New Orleans. 1844.
Epidemic at Mobile. The first case reported August 14. Deaths, 40.
1845. Few cases at Mobile,
though it did not manifest itself until November 9. Only 1 death.
1846. Four deaths at Mobile.
The first case appeared September 11.
1847. Epidemic at Mobile. The
first case, August 2. Deaths, 78.
1848. Mild epidemic at
Mobile. The first case August 18. Deaths, 24.
1849. Mild epidemic, the
first manifestation, July 3. Deaths, 21.
1851. Mild epidemic at
Mobile. No records kept.
1852. Epidemic in Selma, now
known to have been infected by steamboat from Mobile, although there is
no reported occurrence of the disease for that year in the latter. First
reported case and death, September 1, and the last death, November 13.
1853. Epidemics in Mobile,
Montgomery, Demopolis, Cahawba, Fulton, Hollywood, Porterville, St.
Stephens Road, Bladen Springs, Spring Hill, Dog River Factory and
Citronelle. Mobile was infected from the bark Milliades, from New
Orleans; and other points by refugees from Mobile, except Hollywood
which was infected from New Orleans. Of the 25,000 population in Mobile,
8,000 left the city. First case and death July 11, the last case
December 16. Total deaths, 1,191. A large number of cases among negroes,
but only 50 died. In Montgomery the first case appeared in September,
and last in November. Deaths, 35. The epidemic at Spring Hill was
largely among refugees; 50 out of a group of 60 were attacked, the death
rate being 5 whites, 2 mulattoes and 1 negro. No record was kept of the
cases and deaths at Cahawba, Citronelle, Demopolis, Fulton and St.
Stephen's Road. At Porterville, there were no cases among the
inhabitants, but 5 cases with 2 deaths among refugees. At Hollywood the
first case developed, August 15, and the last September 20, with 10
cases and 6 deaths. Infection from New Orleans. At Dog River out of a
population of 300, there were 69 cases with 23 deaths; the first case,
August 18. This epidemic was the most widespread which had occurred up
to that time, not only in Alabama, but over the entire country.
1854. Epidemic at Montgomery,
with a few sporadic cases at Mobile. Deaths in Montgomery, 45, the
disease running from September to November.
1855. Epidemic at Montgomery,
September to November. 30 deaths.
1858. Epidemic at Mobile.
Deaths, 70; the first case, August 3. 1863,
1864. Few sporadic cases at
Mobile during these years, brought in by blockade runners from Key West
and from the West Indies. In 1863, 2 deaths reported with 6 in 1864.
1867. Epidemic in Mobile,
with a few sporadic cases in Montgomery, and also at Fort Morgan. The
disease appeared at all three places August 13. No statistics are
available; but infection from New Orleans. 1870. Sporadic cases at
Montgomery and Whiting, with a mild epidemic at Mobile. Cases at
Montgomery, August 22 to November 19; at Mobile, August 27 to November
19; and among refugees at Whiting about the same period. Infection was
1873. Severe epidemics
occurred throughout the entire Gulf States. Mobile, Montgomery,
Junction, Huntsville, Oakfield and Pollard were visited. At Mobile
infection was traced to New Orleans; occurrence from August 21 to
November 29. Total of 210 cases, with 35 deaths. Montgomery was infected
from Pensacola, the first case reported, August 27. The whole population
of the city, except about 1,800 fled. There were 500 cases, with 108
deaths. The last case appeared November 10. The first case at Oakfield
reported September 22. Total of 7 cases, with 1 death. Sporadic cases at
Pollard, but no statistics available. In a population of 35 at Junction,
there were 22 cases, with 14 deaths. At Huntsville there were 3 cases,
with 1 death. While Memphis and Shreveport had many more cases than New
Orleans and Mobile in this epidemic, the mortality rate in the latter
was much greater.
1874. Epidemic at Pollard.
Infection brought from Pensacola. No statistics.
1875. Mild epidemic at
Mobile; the first case reported September 1, the last October 20. Cases
16, with 8 deaths. Some cases occurred among refugees from Mobile to
1876. Two cases, one a
refugee from New Orleans, the other a refugee from Savannah, developed
in the Battle House. The one from New Orleans died.
1878. Severe epidemics in the
Tennessee valley, with infection in most cases from Memphis. There were
cases at Athens, Courtland, Decatur, Florence, Huntsville, Leighton,
Stevenson, Town Creek, Tuscumbia and Tuscaloosa. Spring Hill, Whistler
and Mobile in the southern part of the State were visited. Athens had 2
cases, with 2 deaths; Court-land, one case with one death; Decatur 187
cases, 51 deaths; Florence 1,409 cases, 50 deaths; Huntsville 33 cases,
13 deaths, none of these being resident cases; Leighton, 4 cases, 1
death; Mobile 297 cases, 83 deaths; Spring Hill, 1 death among the
refugees, no local cases; Stevenson 11 cases, and 6 deaths, first case
on September 1; Town Creek, 4 deaths; Tuscaloosa 2 cases, 2 deaths;
Tuscumbia 97 cases, 31 deaths; Whistler several cases among refugees, 1
death only, inhabitants not attacked. The epidemic of this year was
general over the entire Mississippi Valley, as far north as Cairo, Ill.
Many cases in the north Alabama towns were refugees from other points.
In only a few cases were the natives affected. The infection in Mobile
was from Biloxi, Miss., the first case showing early in August. Most of
the cases were in the southern section of the town. The last death,
October 30; a slight frost had fallen October 23.
1880. One case developed on
board a vessel from Havana, then in Mobile Harbor. No cases in the city.
1883. Severe epidemic at
Brewton; the first case, September 12, the last, November 6; 70 cases,
28 deaths. The presence of yellow fever was never admitted by the local
physicians, but it was so pronounced by the U. S. Marine Health Service
and the State health officer.
1888. Outbreak at Decatur, in
which there were 10 cases and 1 death; the first case, September 4.
Nearly the 'whole population of the town fled.
1893. Two cases, with one
death at Fort Morgan.
1897. The outbreak of this
year was widespread, cases occurring at Alco, Bay Minette, Flomaton,
Greensboro, Mobile, Montgomery, Notasulga, Selma, Sandy Ridge and Wagar.
Alco, 1 case, no death; Bay Minette, 1 case, 1 death; Flomaton, 98
cases, 5 deaths; Greensboro, 1 case, 1 death; Mobile, infected from
Ocean Springs, Miss., 361 cases, 48 deaths; Montgomery, 120 cases, 11
deaths; the epidemic lasting from October 18 to November 10; Notasulga,
1 case, no deaths; Selma, 12 cases, 2 deaths, epidemic lasting from
October 23 to October 31; Sandy Ridge, 1 case, no death; Wagar, 45
cases, 3 deaths.
1903. One case and death at
1905. Cases at Castleberry, Mobile quarantine
station, and Montgomery. Two cases and two deaths occurred at
Castleberry. The case at Montgomery was a refugee.
Source: History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography By
Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen Published by The S. J. Clarke
publishing company, 1921; Submitted by Barb
epidemic proportions in Alabama in the past are yellow fever, smallpox,
malarial fever, typhoid fever, spinal meningitis and infantile
paralysis. The two last named have been strictly local, but the number
of localities over the State in which cases were noted in 1916, caused
considerable apprehension on the part of health officials in reference
to the possibility of their general spread. The state board of health,
in conjunction with the local boards of health, has been prompt in
stamping out epidemic diseases from their first appearance. Strict
quarantines are put in force in all cases. Placards or signs are
displayed on houses in which sick patients are confined. Smallpox
patients are treated in hospitals, provided for that purpose by local
authorities. The health authorities have conducted successful
educational campaigns for the eradication of conditions favorable to
Owing to peculiar climatic
conditions malaria is generally prevalent in the State during the late
spring and summer months, particularly when there is a wet season after
May 1, followed by a pronounced drought. These conditions produce the
mosquito which is the sole cause of the disease. Malaria epidemics are
local, but they occur in all sections of the State, and have been
reported in every month of the year. The majority of cases occur in
July, August, September and October, with the smallest number in January
and February. The months of greatest mortality are August, September and
October. The mortality records for the past six years are: 1910, 467;
1911, 437; 1912, 546; 1913. 434; 1914, 488; 1915, 500.
While epidemic, this disease is of
local occurrence, and in nearly all cases has been brought in from other
localities. New foci will always be established where exposed persons
are allowed to go into uninfected places. During the summer and fall of
1881, there were 347 cases, with 49 deaths in Birmingham. Since that
date the disease has occurred in the State at intervals, but has always
been well under control of the health authorities. A notable epidemic
occurred at Riverton in Colbert County in 1896, when more than 30
persons became infected. Tuscaloosa County has been infected on several
occasions but it has always been traced to local conditions. The big
spring at Huntsville, the source of the water supply of the city, became
infected at one time, and several deaths resulted before the spread
could be controlled. The source of infection in most epidemics has been
traced to the water supply, though in a few cases to milk infection.
This disease occurred locally,
from time to time prior to 1860, but few records are available. Since
1865 the records have been more or less complete. During the Mobile
epidemic of 1865-1866 there were between 500 and 600 cases with 100
deaths. In the epidemic of 1874-75 there were 990 cases with 262 deaths.
Of this number 204 of the deaths were among the colored population. No
further outbreaks occurred until 1882 when the disease was epidemic in
Calhoun, Chilton and Limestone Counties, but there was only a small
number of cases with five deaths. The disease was quite prevalent
throughout the state in 1897 and 1898, and quarantines were established,
locally, in many places.
Submitted by Barb