Yellow fever is a viral disease. It causes fever, chills, loss of appetite, muscle pain, vomiting and headaches. It is caused by the yellow fever virus and spread by the bite of the infected female mosquito.
Long before we knew about the mode of spread of this disease, there was a considerable debate regarding the same in the medical fraternity. Some of the researchers felt that this disease was contagious i.e. it spread from person to person like the common cold. But there were those that believed otherwise. Nothing is accepted until you show the prove it and the same goes for this disease as well.
There were many researchers who did the most-weird things to prove their theories about yellow fever. But Jean Guyon definitely takes the cake!
Jean Louis Genevieve Guyon was born on April 5th, 1794 in Albert, France. He came from a very modest background. His mother worked as a servant in Albert. He became a surgeon in 1811 and served as a French military doctor. He was very interested in the study of tropical diseases like cholera and Yellow fever. He came across a number of patients suffering from yellow fever. He observed them and made notes about them. He firmly believed that Yellow Fever was not contagious and desperately wanted to prove his point to the world.
On 28thJune 1822, Jean Guyon acquired a shirt from a patient suffering from Yellow Fever. He then wore that sweat stained shirt for 24 hours in the presence of doctors, surgeons, pharmacists and other employees in the Fort Royal Hospital. Most people would find this thought revolting even if that patient was not suffering from any disease. But Guyon went even further. The patient had festering sores with yellowish discharge. Guyon took the help of a fellow surgeon M. Cuppe, who inoculated the yellowish substance into Guyon’s arms. After 24 hours, Guyon removed the shirt in the presence of witnesses. He announced to everyone that he did not suffer from any fever.
Having no symptoms whatsoever, Guyon wanted to categorically prove to everyone his theory which meant he had to really step up his game. Luckily for him, there was a navy clerk who was suffering from yellow fever. On the morning of 30thJune 1822 i.e. two days after the initial experiment, this patient had a violent bout of vomiting and he spewed a large amount of dark red/back content in his vomitus. This was just what Guyon was waiting for.
He took the dark matter in a glass and drank it. He said that it tasted excessively bitter. After that he rubbed the same matter all over his body and again asked M. Cuppe to inoculate the dark matter vomited by the patient into his body. The patient died the very next day. Guyon took the dead man’s shirt immediately. It was soaked with blood and sweat. He wore it and slept in the dead patient’s bed for six and a half hours in the presence of witnesses. The bed was soaked with the patient diarrheal stools and sweat. He rolled around in the filth and smeared the fecal matter all over his skin to ensure that he had maximum exposure to the patient’s filth.
The next day without removing the shirt, nor cleaning the excreta from his body, Guyon cut open the patient’s stomach and found some dark liquid in it. He took it and smeared it all over his body and again inoculated himself with the matter.
The inoculated parts became inflamed and painful but those turned normal after 3 days. However, he did not get infected with Yellow Fever in spite of all this and thus proved his point that it was not a contagious disease.
He died on 24thAugust 1870 at the age of 76.
FACTS ABOUT YELLOW FEVER
- It is caused by the yellow fever virus.
- It is transmitted by the bite of infected female Aedes and Haemagogus mosquitoes
- It is endemic in tropical areas with 90% of the cases occurring in Africa
- Incubation period generally 3 to 6 days
- It is not contagious
- It was Dr.Walter Reed who proved that it is actually transmitted by mosquitoes
- Infection is more common in late rainy and early summer seasons.
- he first recorded epidemic of Yellow Fever was in 1648 in the Yucatan Peninsula (south-eastern Mexico), and it was part of a larger epidemic involving many Caribbean Islands.
- Vaccines are very effective against this disease
- There is no actual treatment for the disease except for management of symptoms.