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History: 1922 Dengue Fever Epidemic

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Issues of the Bossier Banner for almost the entire year of 1922 reflect what amounted to an epidemic of a painful, debilitating, mosquito-borne disease called dengue fever. The editor of the paper reported on Bossier Parish residents who were sick and those who were not.

The September 14 issue of the Banner reported that leaflets about dengue fever from the State Board of Health had just come to the newspaper office. The information in the leaflets is printed herein.

“Dengue Fever goes by a number of names, the most common of which are Breakbone or Dandy Fever, the former on account of the severe pains and the latter because of the gait.”

“It is quite prevalent in tropical countries and often visits the Southern States, prevailing now in parts of Florida and Texas. It is just appearing in Louisiana.”

“Definition: It is an acute infectious disease accompanied by severe pain, often an eruption and especially a fever curve with a characteristic remission or intermission. The disease is self-limited and is rarely fatal.”

“Cause: The etiology of Dengue is unknown. The etiological agent is prevalent in the blood stream of persons suffering from Dengue.”

“Transmission: A mosquito of the genus Culex has been most frequently implicated. Ashburn & Craig and others have used the C. fatigans [the Southern house mosquito] as a vector with success. It is claimed that species of Aedes (stegomyia) may also transmit the disease.”

“Incubation: The period of incubation as determined by experimental inoculation has been found to be from three to six days. Longer and shorter periods have been observed.”

“Communicability: During the febrile period, probably about three to five days.”

“Diagnosis: Dengue must be differentiated from influenza and malaria.”

“Influenza: Catarrhal symptoms that are usually absent to Dengue Fever. Pains of influenza less definite and severe.”

“Malaria: Eruptions and absence of chill and general course, together with the absence of the plasmodia, are sufficient to distinguish Dengue Fever from malaria.”
Prophylaxis

“1. Recognition of the disease and isolation of the patient under a mosquito bar or a thoroughly screened room during the infectious period which is probably as long as the fever lasts.”
“2. There is no disinfection, aside from such as may be used to destroy infected mosquitos in the room of the patient. The period during which the mosquitos may remain infectious is not known, but the incubation period is very probably between three and four days.”
“3. The destruction of all mosquito breeding places.”

The paper continued to report cases of Dengue Fever as late as December 28, 1922.

To learn more about early medical challenges faced by Bossier residents visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.


Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or
amiddlet@state.lib.la.us