In June 1900, Major Walter Reed, Chief Surgeon of the U.S. Army, led a medical team to Cuba on a mission to investigate yellow fever.
For more than two hundred years the disease had terrorized the United States, killing an estimated 100,000 people in the nineteenth century alone. Shortly after Reed and his team arrived in Havana they began testing the radical theories of Carlos Finlay, a Cuban doctor who believed that mosquitoes spread yellow fever.
This AMERICAN EXPERIENCE production documents the heroic efforts of Reed's medical team, some of whom put their own lives on the line to verify Finlay's theory. Eventually, their discovery enabled the United States to successfully eradicate the disease among workers constructing the Panama Canal, making possible the completion of one of the most strategic waterways in the world.
When yellow fever struck New Orleans in 1905, an aggressive mosquito eradication campaign successfully ended the epidemic. It was the last yellow fever outbreak in the United States, and the first major public health triumph of the 20th century.