This Month in Medical History – Who was Walter Reed?

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | September 18, 2016
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Shortly after their investigation and before their report had even been published, the army sent Reed and his team, with the addition of bacteriologist Jesse Lazear, to investigate an outbreak of yellow fever at the army garrison in Havana. Based on the groundwork they did there, Reed began to strongly support the idea that yellow fever was caused by an insect vector. In late summer of 1900, Carroll willingly exposed himself to an infected mosquito and was stricken by yellow fever.

Shortly thereafter, Lazear was bitten and he died from the illness. Further tests were performed on volunteers and it was determined that mosquitoes caused the fever. Armed with that knowledge, action was taken and less than a year later, Havana was free of yellow fever. Reed, by all accounts a modest man, didn’t have long to bask in the glory. Less than two years after driving yellow fever out of Havana, he came down with appendicitis, and died after the operation at the age of 51.

There’s one final note worth mentioning. Reed’s son, Walter L. Reed, also achieved great success. He was a U.S. Army major general and Inspector General of the Army, and when he died at the age of 79, he died in the hospital named after his father.

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