• The flavivirus family derives its name from one of the greatest plagues in history, yellow fever ("flavi"= yellow in Latin). The yellow fever epidemic started hundreds of years ago when the virus and its vector, a mosquito known as Aedes aegypti, were transported to the New World in the water casks of slave ships from West Africa. Yellow fever virus spread quickly throughout North and South America and killed thousands during the construction of the Panama canal. An American army doctor named Walter Reed solved the mystery of how the fatal "yellow jack" disease was transmitted. Reed demonstrated a filterable agent in the blood of yellow fever patients and discovered arbo-transmission. Yellow fever was the first human virus to be isolated and classified as a virus.
  • Today campaigns to eradicate yellow fever have drastically reduced its incidence, although it still remains common in endemic regions of West Africa.
  • After the introduction of sensitive blood screening assays in the 1970s, doctors believed posttransfusion hepatitis would be eliminated. Cases of non-A, non-B hepatitis kept popping up and the cause remained unknown until Hepatitis C was identified by Bradley and colleagues in 1989.