81 pages 2 hours read

Jim Murphy

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

Nonfiction | Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2014

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Reading Context

Use these questions or activities to help gauge students’ familiarity with and spark their interest in the context of the work, giving them an entry point into the text itself.

Short Answer

1. How do viruses spread? What are some precautions people can take to avoid becoming sick with a virus?

Teaching Suggestion: This question supports students with a basic understanding of viruses and their easily transmissible nature. Many times, the causes of both epidemics (in which a disease spreads quickly and affects many people at the same time) and pandemics (in which a disease spreads quickly and affects a significant proportion of the population in a wide geographic area, sometimes worldwide) are related to a lack of adequate sanitary conditions; however, Murphy highlights that many 18th-century Philadelphians believed that yellow fever was caused by conditions unrelated to either sanitation or scientific evidence, connecting to the theme of Folk Remedies Versus Science.

While the study of viruses and diseases, along with the introduction of health codes throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, significantly improved public health in the United States, many viruses are still transmissible today. Murphy makes this link between improved public health and safety codes and the advancement of scientific study related to viruses in Chapter 11.