Spread by mosquitoes, yellow fever causes nausea, fever, and bleeding. In extreme cases, liver damage and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and/or eyes) can occur. Today, vaccination exists for those who live in high risk areas, mosquito control can be used to prevent outbreaks of yellow fever, and modern medicine can greatly improves the survival rate of those who become infected. Still, the WHO estimates that 200,000 people become infected with yellow fever each year and of those, 30,000 people die. 90% of yellow fever cases today occur in Africa.
The yellow fever epidemic of 1793 was catastrophic for Philadelphia. The city had a population of 50,000 and recorded 4,044 death between August 1 and November 1. Many people fled the city and those who remained struggled to find basic necessities under quarantine.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793 follows a fictional 14 year old named Mattie Cook during this epidemic. As the city falls apart and those she loves become infected, Mattie must find ways to survive in a calamitous situation.
Fever 1793 skews younger than most of the books I’ve recommended as Amazon lists it for ages 10 and up, but it is full of historical details and worth reading for anyone interested in early American history or what it is like to live through an epidemic.