George Washington: Malaria Episodes


malaria
 
From the age of 17 to almost the end of his life, Washington had recurrent attacks of malaria. Malaria was then common in Virginia. Interestingly, an effective treatment for malaria had been discovered in the previous century. But for some reason, Washington did not receive the treatment until 1784, when he was in his 50s 1a SEE BELOW. To add to the mystery, soldiers in the Revolutionary Army were treated for malaria as early as 1776 1b.

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The table below is a chronology of Washington's malaria attacks, as compiled by Dr. Bumgarner 1c:
Age Year Comments
--- ---- --------
17 First attack.
30 1752 Developed after returning from campaign against Ft. Duquesne.
        Recovery required considerable time.
39 1761 His last major attack -- 'dangerously ill.'
52 1784 Treated with 'Peruvian bark.'
66 1798 Responded poorly to the bark.
"Peruvian bark" was an effective remedy for malaria. Made from the bark of the cinchona tree native to South America, it contained quinine.
Cited Sources
  1. Bumgarner, John R. The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company, 1994.
        
    a  pp.1, 4, 6 (year might have been 1786)  b  p.4  c  pp.1-6

    Comment: Devotes one chapter to each President, through Clinton. Written for the layperson, well-referenced, with areas of speculation clearly identified, Dr. Zebra depends heavily on this book. Dr. Bumgarner survived the Bataan Death March and has written an unforgettable book casting a physician's eye on that experience.


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