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Thread: Yellow Fever?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    Yellow Fever?

    So, I need to kill off a fairly major character in the next twenty pages (I plan to have her die on page 50). This character's death was only backstory in the second draft, but I decided to show her demise in this third draft.

    Problem is, in draft 2, she died of a "tropical fever." In this draft, her cause of death needs to be specific.

    She dies in summer 1799 in Barbados. I thought of yellow fever. It fits all my requirements. But it seems like yellow fever always occurred in a wider outbreak and I don't think Barbados had a yellow fever problem at the time. Plus, I don't want to kill a lot of characters who would be exposed to the disease, just her.

    Doesn't have to be a tropical disease necessarily, just something prevalent but untreatable and quick. Any suggestions?
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  2. #2
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    Well, you could always create a few random non-named people and say they died of the disease, too. Then it makes sense.

    Or you could say that she was in a remote place/was quarantined/people took precautions, and so the disease didn't spread.

    Or you could just say it was a miracle that the disease that killed her didn't spread.

    Or you could kill her in another way--an accident or fire.

    All that being said: how about malaria? Deadly but not contagious. It's definitely tropical, too.
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    Historicals and Horror rule donroc's Avatar
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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    Tropical malaria.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies. Malaria seems popular; will have to research a little more.
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  6. #6
    figuring it all out BlankWhitePage's Avatar
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    I'd go with malaria.

  7. #7
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    You're right that yellow fever does tend to occur in outbreaks, but there are always at least a few cases in areas where it is found. Malaria is more common, with more cases around the world (it's the number 1 killer of children under 5 in Africa). Both malaria and yellow fever are spread by mosquitoes, but different kinds. But enough of the epidemiology lesson, especially since you went with malaria.
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  8. #8
    Don't let your deal go down, Dave Hardy's Avatar
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    Back then it wasn't uncommon to die of some non-specific "fever." I guess if your story absolutely demands a scientifically accurate diagnosis, you may need to pick something. Malaria can be fatal, and it can weaken a person so they succumb to some other infection. But it is not necessarily fatal, in fact many victims can live a long time with it. I've heard the Blackwater Fever type of malaria is pretty lethal, though I'm not sure when the term came into use.

    I have to agree that Yellow Fever is overkill. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida which was still a bit traumatised by an outbreak in the 1890s. Read Bring Out Your Dead about the 1793 outbreak in Philadelphia if you want grim details. Funny thing is I think the doctors killed damn near as many folks as the fever. If you really want to do in your sufferer, just give her a double dose of jalap suspended in calomel.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say the story requires an exact, scientific diagnosis nor does it have to be something doctors recognized. The accuracy is more for me. I didn't want to just heap a bunch of symptoms on her.

    Besides, no matter what it is, she's dying. And I'm sure the local physician will bleed her and do her more harm than good.

    I'm rethinking my decision about making it malaria. They had a treatment for it already by my time period, quinine.
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  10. #10
    has no socks JulianneQJohnson's Avatar
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    How about tetanus? Can happen to anyone and isn't a contagious disease. Could also be something like tuberculosis, which is contagious but it is possible for it to take one member of a family, for example, and effect no one else. My grandfather lost a sister to that back in the 1890ís, and no one else caught it. He referred to it as consumption, but I donít know what it would have been in the 1700ís
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunflowerrei View Post
    I'm rethinking my decision about making it malaria. They had a treatment for it already by my time period, quinine.
    In 1799 quinine was known to be a useful treatment, but
    1. it was still controversial among physicians (as to whether/when/how to use it)
    2. it was not always available
    3. it was not always administered correctly (see #1)
    4. it didn't always work


    Many, many people died of tropical malaria, some very quickly, despite the existence of quinine. It's still a disease that kills a lot of people every year.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JulianneQJohnson View Post
    My grandfather lost a sister to that back in the 1890ís, and no one else caught it. He referred to it as consumption, but I donít know what it would have been in the 1700ís
    I think they called TB consumption back in the 1700s, too. Back when I was more decisive about how to kill my characters (that is, not accurate), I used consumption a lot.

    In 1799 quinine was known to be a useful treatment, but
    it was still controversial among physicians (as to whether/when/how to use it)
    it was not always available
    it was not always administered correctly (see #1)
    it didn't always work

    Many, many people died of tropical malaria, some very quickly, despite the existence of quinine. It's still a disease that kills a lot of people every year.
    I had come across a reference to Charles II being treated for malaria with quinine. Based on that, I figured that quinine as treatment was either expensive or hard to get or the dosage could easily be wrong.
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