Beri Beri – is a nervous system ailment caused by a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1)

Beri Beri disease

Chicken Pox – A common virus among children.  Symptoms include itchy rash, tiny spots, over face, arms, legs, accompanied by fever, chills, fatigue, headache and sometimes aching in legs or back.

Cholera – Extremely deadly and infectious, caused from drinking contaminated water.  Symptoms include skin turning blue due to a slowing of the blood’s circulation.  There were superstitions that the sun caused it or too much air or being afraid of catching it caused one to catch it or eating fruits and vegetables was the cause. Infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea. Symptoms: Abdominal cramps; Dry mucus
membranes or mouth; Dry skin; Excessive thirst; Glassy or sunken.  Death rates were highest in urban areas like New Orleans, where large numbers of people packed into small areas spread disease quickly. The filth that accumulated in New Orleans and the swampy areas that surrounded it attracted disease-carrying insects and polluted the water supply. Thousands of sailors and steamboat workers also introduced diseases as they passed through the port.

Yellow fever continued to plague Louisiana until 1905, the year of the last major epidemic. Before scientists at the turn of the century discovered that mosquitoes carried yellow fever, other serious epidemics affected Shreveport in 1873 and New Orleans in 1878.

Primary victims of disease were immigrants, children, laborers, and the poor. Wealthy residents could escape the plague by leaving the city during the most dangerous months, June to November, or afford good health care and clean surroundings.

Many native Louisianians who had been exposed to mild attacks during childhood were immune to yellow fever, malaria, and cholera and were accustomed to their frequent visitations. One such native even praised yellow fever for checking.
Devastated antebellum Louisiana.

Consumption or TB – Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially fatal contagious disease that can affect almost any part of the body but is mainly an infection of the lungs.

Diptheria – Diphtheria is a potentially fatal, contagious disease that usually involves the nose, throat, and air passages, but may also infect the skin. Usually contracted in childhood. Its most striking feature is the formation of a grayish membrane covering the tonsils and upper part of the throat.  (From the Free Dictionary.)

Dysentery -

Hookworm – Often related to improper foot protection and sanitary conditions, where human waste, animal waste, or improper waste disposal resulted in infection from hookworms, which thrived in rainy, humid environments, particularly the south, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida.  Hookworms hatch eggs and larvae can bore into humans through their unprotected feet or hands as they walked or worked with moist soil.  A female hookworm can lay 5,000 to 20,000  eggs in a human’s intestines which are discharged through bowel movements.

The larva can move from side to side and is most active when dew is on the ground and temperatures are warm. While moving, if the larva haphazardly made contact with a person’s bare foot or hand, it quickly bored its way corkscrew-like into the skin and began its journey to the intestinal tract. At the site of entry, often a rash erupted which caused itching. This symptom was called “ground itch” or “dew itch.”

Since many Southerners did not wear shoes in summer months, hookworm larva usually penetrated between people’s toes. After making its way through the victim’s respiratory tract, the larva eventually found its way to the small intestine about one week later. Necator americanus has a pair of curved cutting plates in its mouth that allow it to attach to its host’s intestinal walls. It will live there, sucking the victim’s blood, about four to five years.

Pot belly and angel’s wings

People infected with hookworms often experienced a lack of energy but were not aware of the type parasite they had. In addition, coughing, wheezing, and fever sometimes developed in the victim as the larval migration traveled through the lungs. Infected people could also have stomach pains, pale yellowish-colored skin, feet that “go to sleep,” head and joint aches, weakness, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Two classic visible signs of hookworm disease are a “pot belly”– an extended stomach – and “angel’s wings” – shoulder blades extended outward because of the host’s slumping, emaciated body. Blurred vision and a “fish-eye” stare characterized severe cases.

The primary danger of hookworm disease was anemia because the worms lived on the host’s plasma and excreted the red blood cells. The severity of the disease depended on the number of worms in the person’s gut. Death could result from secondary infections because of the host’s weakened condition.

(from Mississippi Now website)

Malaria -


Pellagra - Pellagra is a vitamin deficiency disease most commonly caused by a chronic lack of niacin (vitamin B3) in the diet. Pellagra symptoms include skin lesions which was first described in Spain in 1735 by Gaspar Casal, who published a first clinical description in his posthumous “Natural and Medical History of the Asturian Principality” (1762). This led to the disease being known as “Asturian leprosy”, and it is recognized as the first modern pathological description of a syndrome(1). It was an endemic disease in northern Italy, where it was named “pelle agra” (pelle = skin; agra = rough) by Francesco Frapoli of Milan.[3] Because pellagra outbreaks occurred in regions where maize was a dominant food crop, the belief for centuries was that the maize either carried a toxic substance or was a carrier of disease. It was not until later that the lack of pellagra outbreaks in Mesoamerica, where maize is a major food crop (and is processed), was noted and the idea was considered that the causes of pellagra may be due to factors other than toxins.(wikipedia)

Pleurisy – inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest, The main symptom of pleurisy is a sharp or stabbing pain in the chest that gets worse with deep breathing, coughing or sneezing. (wikipedia)

Poliomyelitis – Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis,

is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route. Polio epidemics have crippled thousands of people, mostly young children; the disease has caused paralysis and death for much of human history. Polio had existed for thousands of years quietly as an endemic pathogen until the 1880s. (wikepedia)

Pneumonia -

Scurvy -

Smallpox –

Tetanus -

Typhoid Fever – A bacterial infection that involves diarrhea, systemic disease, and a rash transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person

Vaccine Poisoning -  Permanently arresting the growth and development of his legs.

Yellow Fever – The virus is transmitted from animals to humans and among humans by several species of mosquitoes. Yellow fever appears with a sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, backache, nausea, and vomiting. The skin and eyes may appear yellow—a condition known as jaundice and a sign that gives rise to the disease’s popular name. There is no specific treatment. (Britannica online)

Research books: Another Dimension to the Black Diaspora: Diet, Disease and Racism by Kenneth F. Kiple, Virginia Hemmelsteib King