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"Y" is for Yellow Fever

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

“Y” is for Yellow fever. Yellow fever was one of the most dreaded diseases in South Carolina during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Along with malaria, it helped establish the reputation of the South Carolina lowcountry as a dangerously unhealthy place for whites and was used to justify African slavery. Yellow fever, like malaria was introduced into South Carolina as a result of the African slave trade. The first major epidemic struck Charleston in 1699, killing about fifteen percent of the population. Like malaria, the disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and strikes in warm weather. Yellow fever is caused by a flavivirus. Its name derives from one of its common symptoms, a jaundice produced by the virus’s attacks on the liver. South Carolina’s last recorded yellow fever epidemic took place in Beaufort in 1878.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.