Sword of Pestilence, The New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853

by John Duffy, M.A., Ph.D., Tulane University School of Medicine. x + 191 pages, illustrated. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. 1966. $5.00

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  • 621 N.W. 36th Terrace, Gainesville, Florida

In the summer of 1853 New Orleans suffered its worst yellow fever epidemic. There were about 40,000 cases in a population of about 100,000, an incidence rate of 40 percent, and nearly 9,000 deaths, a case fatality rate of about 22 percent. This book contains an almost daily chronicle of the epidemic, told largely by quotations and paraphrases from the daily newspapers, minutes of meetings, records of organizations and the two local medical journals. In addition, the author, who is Professor of the History of Medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine, draws a vivid picture of the physical, political, social, commercial and medical setting in which the epidemic occurred, and the official and voluntary measures taken to combat it.

As in many similar situations, the newspapers, city officials and many business men refused to admit that an epidemic was in progress until it was full blown early in July, although the first cases had been reported early in June.