New Orleans, LA

The Strangers' Disease epidemic affected this Southern city and caused its people to become divided

Anita Durairaj

Nineteenth-century New Orleans was afflicted with Strangers' Disease. Between 1817 and 1905, the Strangers Disease caused so much death that people thought the city was haunted.

Strangers' Disease was another name for Yellow Fever. The disease was nicknamed the Strangers' Disease because of the influx of immigrants into the city and their susceptibility to the disease. In fact, the disease seemed to affect the newly arrived European immigrants more than the long-time residents of New Orleans.

The disease was transmitted by mosquitoes which thrived in cities in the South like New Orleans which were warm, humid, and densely populated.

Symptoms of Yellow Fever were gruesome and included jaundice, fever, chills, nausea, and bleeding. There was bleeding from the ears, nose, and eyes. Patients would vomit up coagulated blood.

According to scientists, it was the increase in the city's population that caused the disease to spread.

The disease also caused division in the city because certain groups of people were more susceptible to the disease than others.

At the time, 19th-century doctors did not understand how the disease was spread and they attributed the cause to immigrants who had traveled on ships from distant countries and poor sanitation. These immigrants and other travelers were susceptible to the disease while the locals seemed to have adapted to the disease and suffered less.

A social hierarchy developed and divided those who had lived through the disease and survived and those who hadn't.

Those who were not "acclimated" to the disease had difficulties in obtaining jobs, getting married, and even renting rooms. It was the European immigrants who suffered the most in this division of social hierarchy because they were not "acclimated."

By the 1850s, the disease had wiped out 10% of the New Orleans population, and 40% suffered from illness.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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