Walter Reed and Yellow Fever

Author: Walter Reed  | Date: 1923

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Howard A. Kelly Baltimore 1923 Edmund B. Kelly

Yellow Jack


Dr. Reed’s own account:

At 11:55, December 21, 1900, fifteen mosquitoes were freed in the larger room of the "Infected Mosquito Building" which was divided into two compartments by a wire-screen partition. The interval that had elapsed since the contamination of these insects was as follows: one, twenty-four days; three, twelve days; four, eight days; and seven, five days. The only articles of furniture in this building consisted of three beds, one being placed in the mosquito room and two beyond the wire screen, these latter intended to be occupied by two "control" non-immunes. The articles of bedding as well as the bedsteads had been carefully disinfected by steam.

At noon on the same day, five minutes after the mosquitoes had been placed therein, a plucky Ohio boy, Moran by name, clad only in his nightshirt and fresh from a bath, entered the room containing the mosquitoes, where he lay down for a period of thirty minutes. On the opposite side of the screen were the two "controls" and one other non-immune. Within two minutes after Moran’s entrance he was bitten about the face and hands by the insects that had promptly settled down upon him. Seven in all bit him at this visit. At 4:30 P.M. he again entered and remained twenty minutes, during which time five others bit him. The following day at 4:30 P.M., he again entered and remained fifteen minutes, during which three insects bit him, making the number fifteen that fed at these three visits. The building was then closed, except that the two non-immune "controls" continued to occupy the beds on the non-infected side of the screen.

On Christmas morning at 11 A.M. this brave lad was stricken with yellow fever and had a sharp attack which he bore without a murmur. The period of incubation in this case was three days and twenty-three hours, counting from his first visit, or two days and seventeen and a half hours, if reckoned from his last visit. The two "controls" who had slept each night in this house, only protected by the wire screen, but breathing the common atmosphere of the building, had remained in good health. They continued to remain so, although required to sleep here for thirteen additional nights. As Moran had remained in strict quarantine for the period of thirty-two days prior to his attack, the source of his infection must be found in this house.

Columbia Barracks,

Quemados, Cuba,

11:50 P.M., December 31, 1900

Only ten minutes of the old century remain. Here have I been sitting, reading that most wonderful book, La Roche on Yellow Fever, written in 1853. Forty-seven years later it has been permitted to me and my assistants to lift the impenetrable veil that has surrounded the causation of this most wonderful, dreadful pest of humanity and to put it on a rational and scientific basis. I thank God that this has been accomplished during the latter days of the old century. May its cure be wrought out in the early days of the new! The prayer that has been mine for twenty years, that I might be permitted in some way or at some time to do something to alleviate human suffering has been granted! A thousand Happy New Years. Hark, there go the twenty-four buglers in concert, all sounding "Taps" for the old year.

1 Private John R Kissinger sad John J. Moran, 8 civilian employee, were the first to volunteer.

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Chicago: Walter Reed, Walter Reed and Yellow Fever, ed. Howard A. Kelly in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed September 23, 2023,

MLA: Reed, Walter. Walter Reed and Yellow Fever, edited by Howard A. Kelly, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 23 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Reed, W, Walter Reed and Yellow Fever, ed. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 23 September 2023, from