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Epidemic InvasionsYellow Fever and the Limits of Cuban Independence, 1878-1930$
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Mariola Espinosa

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226218113

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226218137.001.0001

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Fighting the Yellow Scourge:

Fighting the Yellow Scourge:

Initial Sanitation Reforms in Cuba

(p.31) 3 Fighting the Yellow Scourge:
Epidemic Invasions
University of Chicago Press

After decades of growing concerns in the United States for Havana's endemic yellow fever, the war of 1898 had put U.S. authorities in a position to take action. During the first two years of the occupation of Cuba, the military government undertook a wide range of policies to eliminate at its source the disease that had threatened the southern states. These efforts were obsessively focused on sanitation. In order to control yellow fever, the occupation government cleaned streets and buildings, dredged the busiest ports of the island, quarantined boats and immigrants, disinfected mail and shipments, and isolated non-immunes from possible sources of infection. Although all of these disinfections and quarantines conformed to the most advanced understandings of disease provided by the recent development of bacteriology and germ theory, yellow fever—caused by a virus—posed a challenge. Conflicting cultural understandings of disease and medicine contributed to resistance to colonial public health measures. The sanitation of Havana, in the end, would not stop yellow fever.

Keywords:   yellow fever, Cuba, United States, sanitation, disinfections, quarantines, public health, ports, bacteriology, germ theory

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