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Reactions to Yellow Fever

It is no surprise that when an outbreak of Yellow Fever occurred in Florida the government and citizens had varying reactions to the illness. One government reaction was to set up quarantine stations. The practice of quarantining began in 1374 in the Venetian Republic in order to try and contain the Bubonic Plague. Its purpose then and now is to isolate people from infected places and sufferers.  The first known actual practice of quarantine in Florida was begun by the British in western Florida. They attempted to control a Small Pox outbreak by confining Small Pox patients to ships. Throughout the 19th century the government used quarantines. These quarantines would last 24 hours to 10 days and sometimes even up to 30 days. They were more or less enforced by the local boards of health. The government also issued Yellow Fever Immunity Cards.  These made it so a person was able to travel freely between different areas. People could acquire a Yellow Fever Immunity Card if they could prove that they survived the illness, grew up in an area of Yellow Fever or if they were African (the government thought that Africans were immune by virtue of their race).  If the local government’s efforts did not stop the outbreak of Yellow Fever, they would often try different methods to diminish and hopefully eradicate the cases of Yellow Fever in the city. Some of these methods included purifying the air, disinfecting buildings and ships that had housed Yellow Fever patients, and spraying chemicals in the city in order to kill the disease.  Usually when the citizens found out that their city was infected with the illness, two things occurred: they either tried to flee or they thought that they could wait out the illness. Those who fled the city often spread the illness to the other parts of Florida. Unfortunately many of the people who stayed in the city ended up seeing friends and loved ones die. This fact caused many of them to try and record their thoughts and histories through writing in diaries or creating scrapbooks.