Mr. Barrett to Mr. Hay.
Panama , December 20, 1904 .
Sir: So many letters and telegrams are pouring into this legation from anxious families, who have sons or daughters employed with the canal commission, asking about the prevalence or danger of yellow fever that I am impelled to make this brief report in the hope that the Department will give it some publicity.
Since the 1st of July (or during six months of this year), when American sanitary officers assumed control, there have been upon the whole Isthmus along the line of the canal only ten cases of yellow fever (the names, nationality, development, and result of which are given below over a signed statement of H. R. Carter, surgeon, United States Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service, chief quarantine officer of Panama).
Of these ten, only two have resulted in death, and one of these would probably have been saved if the patient had not been brought to the hospital in the last stages of the disease. Only one American has been attacked and she has recovered. None of the large number of Americans employed as engineers, clerks, stenographers, machinists, and foremen have contracted the disease. One nurse, a Canadian [Page 561] woman, suffered a severe attack that was not fatal, but none of the other nurses associated with her have yet been afflicted. Her exposure was easily traced, and when she became ill she was immediately isolated.
I can not speak too highly of the extensive hospitals on Ancon Hill, where Colonel Gorgas, Major La Garde, Doctor Ross, Doctor Carter, and Miss Hibbard, assisted by a skillful corps of doctors and nurses, have charge, and I must commend the great success they have had in fighting yellow fever. Good nursing seems to be the most effective cure. The families of relatives on the Isthmus therefore may rest assured that their kindred will receive the best treatment possible in case of illness. What is true of the Panama end of the canal is also true of the Colon end and intermediate points.
A word more in general about yellow fever on the Isthmus. There is no reason for a scare here or in the United States because there are a few cases constantly discovered. Yellow fever has been characteristic of Panama in greater or less degree for scores of years, but a long time has passed since it has been epidemic, and the chances under the new sanitary control are against its securing a stronger hold on the population. Every effort is being made to kill off infected mosquitoes, and when they are vanquished there need be no fear of the return of the disease, and the bites of the mosquitoes that remain uninfected will be harmless except to cause temporary annoyance.
In conclusion, I would observe that the danger from yellow fever to Americans on the Isthmus is not half that from pneumonia to the people of Washington and New York during the winter.
I do not, however, wish to be regarded as portraying Panama as a health resort, or as minimizing the disagreeable features of this climate. I am simply stating the truth as it stands at this writing. If there should be an outbreak of yellow fever to-morrow and many should die, my report would not be inconsistent with the facts at this hour.
I have, etc.,