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- In 1793, the yellow fever epidemic gripped Philadelphia, followed by smaller outbreaks in 1794, 1797, and 1798. Over 5,000 residents died during the first outbreak. At this time, the nation's capital was located in Philadelphia. To avoid the "universal terror," George Washington and Congress fled the city for the outlying suburbs. However, most residents did not have the means to re-locate.
Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), a Philadelphia physician, refused to abandon the city. Rush believed the outbreak stemmed from Philadelphia's unsanitary conditions and rotting vegetables. He performed bloodletting procedures on infected patients, curing about 6,000 people. While Rush was adamant that he had identified the origins of the disease and developed its panacea, it would be another century until the epidemic was linked to a mosquito bite, and a half-century more until a cure was developed.
African Americans also played a vital role in attending to the sick. African Americans were believed...(see more)
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