Group Title: Panama Canal spillway : el Canal de Panamá spillway
Title: The Panama Canal spillway =
Full Citation
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 Material Information
Title: The Panama Canal spillway = el Canal de Panamá spillway
Alternate Title: Spillway
Canal de Panamá Spillway
Spillway del Canal de Panamá
Physical Description: 37 v. : ill. ; 43 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Canal Zone
Canal Zone
Panama Canal Company
United States -- Panama Canal Commission
United States
Publisher: Panama Canal
Place of Publication: Balboa Hights C.Z
Balboa Hights C.Z
Publication Date: August 12, 1994
Copyright Date: 1986
Frequency: biweekly[jan. 6, 1984-1999]
weekly[ former -dec. 23, 1983]
Subject: Periodicals -- Canal Zone   ( lcsh )
Periodicals -- Panama Canal (Panama)   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Republic of Panama -- Canal Zone -- Balboa -- Balboa Heights
Coordinates: 8.95 x -79.566667 ( Place of Publication )
Language: Text in English and Spanish; Spanish text inverted.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 33 (Feb. 1, 1963)-Vol. 37, no. 26 (Dec. 30, 1999).
Issuing Body: Issued by: Government of the Canal Zone <June 24, 1966-June 13 1969>; by the Panama Canal Company, <Aug. 13, 1976>-Sept. 14, 1979; by the Panama Canal Commission, Sept. 20, 1979-Dec. 1999.
General Note: "Official Panama Canal publication."
General Note: Imprint varies: Balboa Hights, <1966-1978>; Miami, Fla., <1979-1982>; Balboa Heights, Pan. <1983>-1999.
General Note: Description based on: Vol. 5, no. 1 (June 24, 1966); title from caption.
General Note: Vols. for 1994-1995 distributed to depository libraries in microfiche.
General Note: Special "80th anniversary supplement" issue published on Aug. 12, 1994.
General Note: Special ed. for 65th anniversary of the Panama Canal issued at end of Oct. 1979, is also a joint issue with: The News: authorized unofficial publication of the U.S. Armed Forces, Quarry Heights, Panama, and includes the text of the Panama Canal Act.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00094771
Volume ID: VID00255
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 02582102
lccn - 83642750
issn - 0364-8044
 Related Items
Preceded by: Spillway
Succeeded by: Faro (Balboa, Panama)

Full Text

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80th anniversary supplement

The Panama Canal Spillway

Friday, August 12, 1994

Healthful environment key to "making the dirt fly"

Application of new medical knowledge saved lives,

time and money during Panama Canal construction

On the 80th anniversary of the
Panama Canal, we pay tribute to
Dr. William Crawford Gorgas, a
great humanitarian who, through
his work with tropicqL diseases and
sanitation, made, his mark better-
ing the human condition. No-.
where was his c4tribution great '
than in Panama, where his knowl-
edge, experience nd care, are con-
sidered to have bee indispensable
to the completi6djoflPanam Ca-:.
nal construction. s. .,
While Panama Cana' con-
struction-day engineers surveyed,
tested, calculated, drew up plans
and specifications, made decisions
about equipment and supplies and
supervised construction work,
another force was hard at work
against them, and that was a veri-
table army of tiny, innocent-look-
ing mosquitoes that could bring
life-threatening yellow fever or
malaria with each bloodthirsty
probe into their unsuspecting vic-
tims. There were other problem-
atic diseases too, among them
bubonic plague, carried by the rat
flea; dysentery, a scourge of un-
sanitary living conditions; and
pneumonia, which spread rapidly

attended by one of the very few
doctors then subscribing to the
insect-carrier theory of disease,
to, a childhood interest in things
'.military, to his attending medical
school as a last chance for a mili-
taryco mission after missing out

Maj. Gen. William
Crawford Gorgas

on West Point, to surviving yellow
fever himself and meeting his fu-
ture bride while they were both
recuperating from the disease, to
being on hand in Havana, Cuba,
when Dr. Walter Reed and his
colleagues definitively proved the

ery, Ala., and joined the Confed-
erate forces of Jefferson Davis,
who appointed him brigadier gen-
eral and made him chief of ord-
So, Willie grew up in a military
environment. His early life was
unremarkable, except for his Civil
War experience and his continu-
ing interest in pursuing a military
An initial lack of interest in
study made a complete turn-
around in his last years at the
University of the South, and this
newfound studiousness continued
throughout his lifetime.
His doting father was not in
favor of a military career for Willie
because of the effects on family
life of absences and constant
moving, but, in spite of his own
feelings, he supported his son in
every way.
Josiah Gorgas breathed a sigh
of relief when no West Point ap-
pointment was available for
Willie, and even convinced the
young man to take up the study of
law with an uncle in New Orleans.
Although Willie applied himself
diligently, it became apparent that

Fumigation brigades, like this one carrying ladders, buckets and other supplies, went from house to house
in Panama City and Colon, sealing them with paper and fumigating to kill mosquitoes.

among employees living in close
But, although malaria was ul-
timately the more deadly, no dis-
ease struck more fear in the hearts
of brave and timid alike than did
yellow fever, the nemesis of the
work force during the earlier
French canal construction effort
and a significant contributor to its
If one were a believer in pre-
determination, one would surely
be convinced that Dr. William
Crawford Gorgas was destined
for his disease-control role in the
construction of the Panama Ca-
Whether it was fate or just a
matter of coincidence can be de-
bated, but the fact is that from the
very beginning -- from his birth

previously postulated theory of he and the lawwerejust not meant
Dr. Carlos J. Finlay that yellow for each other, and he was re-
fever was carried bytheStegomyia lieved to accept the approach of
mosquito (later renamed Aedes the annual New Orleans yellow
aegypti) -- Gorgs' life experiences fever epidemic as an excuse to cut
seemed to resolutely entwine him short his year of legal studies.
with the disease that he would Back home and restless for an
eventually conquer. occupation, he hit upon another
William Crawford Gorgas, way to secure a military commis-
called "Willie" by his family and sion -- he would become a mili-
friends, was born to Lt. Josiah tary doctor.
Gorgas and Amelia Gayle Gorgas. '.*Te senior Gorgas was de-
on October 3, 1854, in Mobile,: glijtd with tfiedoctor part of the
Ala. Together with his later-ar. plan, but not the other part, argu-
riving siblings, they formed a cari ;.ing his points aboiit' family life
ing, close-knit family. .- and remiining his son that mili-
His mother bore all of 1 tary doctors were, at that time,
characteristics of a soft-sp6dk.g' held i~yw esteem nongst medi-
southern gentlewoman; his falhd cal p'dfessionals and the general
was a soldier in the U.S. Ari ,.publc. '-
but later, in 1861, resigned th.t -.."FheyquigerGorgas'mind and
position, traveled to Montgom- ~ he'~twere made iup;however, so

This old, portable yellowfever cage was used atAncon Hospital during
early construction days to isolate yellow fever patients.

the not-quite-22-year-old headed
off in 1876 to the now famous
Bellevue Hospital Medical
School, the first medical school of
its kind, having been founded in
New York City in 1860. He gradu-
ated in 1879, and, after a year of
internship at Bellevue, began his
military service as a lieutenant
with the U.S. Army Medical
Corps. He served at two different
posts in Texas before his fortu-
itous assignment to Fort Brown,
where a yellow fever epidemic
was in progress -- fortuitous be-
cause here is where he, himself,
would survive a case of yellow
fever and for the fact that this was
where he would meet his future
Gorgas, being non-immune,
was not permitted to treat the
yellow fever patients at Fort
Brown; however, unable to resist
an opportunity, he participated in
an autopsy on a recently demised
yellow fever patient and was ar-
rested for disobeying orders. As
the staff was shorthanded, and
since Gorgas had already exposed
himself to the infection, he was
released from confinement and
put to work on the yellow fever
With French microbiologist
and chemist Louis Pasteur just
beginning his pioneering studies
on the germ theory of disease,
little or nothing was known about
yellow fever (or, for that matter,
many other diseases), certainly
not the fact that it was caused by
a virus and was transmitted in
only one way, by the bite of an
infected female Stegomyia mos-

Antibiotics would not become
available for another 40 years or
so, and, in any case, would not
have been effective against a viral
infection. When contracted, the
disease simply had to run its ter-
rifying course, the last stage of
which was the dreaded "black
vomit," caused by blood seeping
from the mucous membranes of

No disease struck
more fear in the
hearts of brave and
timid alike than did
yellow fever.

the victim's stomach and intes-
tines. Few patients reaching this
stage survived.
A young woman, Marie
Doughty, happened to be at Fort
Brown visiting her sister, the wife
of post commander Col. William
J. Lyster. Although fort residents
were supposedly kept apart from
disease-contaminated areas, she
came down with yellow fever, and
who should be called to attend
her but the disobedient Dr.
Hers was a severe case, reach-
ing the usually terminal "black
vomit" stage. A grave lay ready to
receive her remains, for not know-
ing the cause of the disease, it was
customary to bury victims as
quickly as possible as a means of
preventing further contamination.
But Doughty did not die, she
began to steadily improve. Dr.

Gorgas Memorial Laboratory, established in 1928 on JustoArosemena
Avenue in Panama City, was the research branch of the Gorgas
Memorial Institute of Tropical Preventive Medicine Inc. Funded jointly
by the United States and Panama, its location in the "heart of tropical
America" and at the "crossroads of the world" made it idealfor the study
of tropical disease. It is now part of Panama's Ministry of Health.


yadirF August 12 1994

The Panama Canal Spillway

80th anniversary supplement

Gorgas, however, took sick, com-
ing down with the severe chill that
marked onset of the disease, along
with severe fever. In Gorgas, the
disease did not reach the "black
vomit" stage. Because his case
was relatively mild and hers had
been severe and complicated,
their recoveries turned out to be
concurrent, and the two were soon
convalescing together.
Shortly after Gorgas returned
to work, members of the Lyster
household became ill, and he
made daily visits to see them, vis-
its that remained a pleasant habit
even after all had recovered.
Following the departure of Ms.
Doughty to her home, the bud-
ding romance continued by let-
ter. They finally met again when
Gorgas' mother invited Ms.
Doughty to her home in
Tuscaloosa, Ala. It was during
this visit that Gorgas proposed
and Doughtyaccepted. Theywere
married on September 15, 1885.
In 1888, Gorgas was stationed
in Florida to provide help during
a yellow fever epidemic there,
and in 1898, during the Spanish-
American War, then Major
Gorgas was made medical officer
of a U.S. Army camp at Siboney,
Cuba. It was during his time in
Cuba that he became associated
with Dr. Carlos Finlay, who had
been long convinced that yellow
fever was borne by a mosquito
vector, and with Dr. Walter Reed
and others who would ultimately
prove the theory to be correct.
The first mosquito experi-
ments, practiced on human vol-
unteers, were inconclusive. The
Reed Board, as it was called,
wondered if they were on the
wrong track. Then, while Reed
was in the States, his replace-
ment, Dr. Jesse W. Lazear, be-
came seriously ill with yellow fe-
ver. On his deathbed, he ex-
plained to Gorgas that he had
allowed himself to be bitten by an
infected Stegomyia mosquito, thus
narrowing the field on the culprit.
Reed, back in Cuba, put out

the word for volunteers for addi-
tional experiments. They were
promised, should they become
infected with yellow fever, the best
of available medical care, immune
certificates and $250 cash. Local
residents were ruled out, because
volunteers had to be newcomers
who had not become immune
through long-term association
with the disease, so the test group
was made up of U.S. soldiers and
Reed conducted a series of
experiments proving the direct
relationship of Stegomyia mos-
quitoes to the infection, from its
biting an infected person, to the
incubation period, to transmit-
ting the disease by biting another,
non-immune person. Experi-
ments also disproved the theory

People were
required to empty,
cover, screen or clean
containers of
standing water.

that people could become infected
by contact with so-called "fomites,"
the clothing, bedding, excreta and
body discharges of yellow fever
patients. Other experiments
proved that it was, indeed, in-
fected blood that harbored the
disease and that it was caused by
a submicroscopic agent.
The conclusions were obvious,
and Gorgas took up the battle.
But how to fight such a small,
sneaky and multitudinous enemy?
Here, Gorgas found acouple
of strategic advantages. He knew
that all mosquitoes pass through
an eight- or nine-day larval, or
"wiggler," stage, and he learned
what kind of breeding environ-
ment the Stegomyia mosquito
used -- all of the man-made, wa-
ter-holding containers commonly
found around the average home

of the time, including the cisterns
and water tanks used to collect
water for household use.
These man-made receptacles
were the mosquito's favorite
place, and humans his most
sought-after company. Even
pitchers, water glasses and flower
vases inside a home could be
found full of eggs and wigglers.
Armed with knowledge about
the habits of this particular mos-
quito, Gorgas was able to narrow
his efforts to its particular habi-
People were required to
empty, cover, screen or clean con-
tainers of standing water. Gut-
ters were cleaned, rain barrels
and cisterns were screened and
spigots installed to remove water
without removing protective cov-
erings. All places that could har-
bor this resourceful mosquito, its
larva or eggs, no matter how small
or hidden away they might be,
were sought out and eradicated.
Places too large or impractical to
empty or screen were covered
with a thin layer of kerosene,
which, floating on top of the wa-
ter, would smother the larvae
when they came to the surface to
Gorgas, with his quiet, caring
southern manner, gained coop-
eration by softening orders and
remitting fines for those who com-
plied. Hold-outs were few and far
between. Thus, yellow fever was
virtually eliminated in Havana.
With the terrifying yellow fe-
ver disposed of, Gorgas and his
sanitation staff could turn their
attention to the more difficult
problem of malaria.
Sir Richard Ross, an English
physician and contemporary of
Gorgas, had demonstratedin 1898
that the malarial parasite was car-
ried by the Anopheles mosquito.
Four years later, in 1902, he won
the Nobel Prize in physiology and
medicine for this work.
Malaria is different from yel-
low fever in that having the dis-
ease does not make victims im-

The Ancon HospitalAdministration Building is shown here on September 2, 1920. Now barely visible to the
casual observer because of the large structures grown up around it, the building, with its stately towers and
inviting landscaping, looks much the same today as then.

Col. William C. Gorgas, far right, became a member of the Isthmian
Canal Commission in 1907. Other members shown in this August 25,
1910, photo are, from left, Lt. Col. William L. Sibert; Joseph Bucklin
Bishop; Maurice H. Thatcher; Rear Adm. Harry H. Rousseau; Col.
George W. Goethals, chairman and Canalchiefengineer; Lt. Col. David
D. Gaillard; and Lt. Col. Harry F. Hodges.

mune to subsequent attacks. Also,
the Anopheles is a very different
mosquito, not possessing the fas-
tidious, home-loving characteris-
tics of the Stegomyia that made it
comparatively easy to control. The
Anopheles will breed anywhere,
preferring the grassy borders of
swamps, streams, lakes and
puddles or even the water col-
lected in vehicle or animal tracks
in soft earth. It can be found
anywhere, from back yards to the
deep jungle.
Gorgas and his sanitation staff
drained swamps, filled in water-
collecting holes and chopped
down the grass and shrubs that
were the insect's favorite hiding
places. In so-doing, they cut the
disease down to size, if not com-
pletely eliminating it.
When plans began to be made
for the U.S. canal-building effort
in Panama, Gorgas, with his ex-
periences in Cuba, was a shoo-in
for the job, and he was appointed
chief sanitation officer in April
1904. Knowing of the problems
that tropical diseases had posed
for the earlier French attempt, he
was keenly aware of the difficul-
ties that would have to be faced in
It seems amazing now, but in
spite of the knowledge so freshly
gained about yellow fever trans-
mission and prevention in Cuba,
a majority of people, including
the new Canal officials, were still
unconvinced, even when the evi-
dence was put before them and
repeatedly explained. Thus it was
that Gorgas did not find immedi-
ate, whole-hearted support for
his work in Panama.
One of the peculiarities of yel-
low fever was that, after a siege,
the majority of the surviving popu-
lation would be immune and the
disease rate would drop until the
next group of non-immune people
would arrive. It was during one of
these lulls that Gorgas and his
party arrived in Panama.
Gorgas understood the prob-
lem clearly and knew that as soon
as a labor force began to pour in
that the disease would again erupt
unless measures were taken.
And he was right, yellow fever
did reappear. Also reappearing
were stacks of caskets on unload-
ing platforms. Chief Engineer
John F. Wallace was said to have
brought caskets with him to the

Isthmus for himself and his wife
... just in case.
Ignorance and bureaucracy
were so great that Gorgas was
able to accomplish little in the
way of mosquito control. Orders
for screening and other supplies
were cut, delayed or completely
ignored. This lack of manage-
ment support made his work ap-
pear to be a failure, and he was
about to be reassigned and re-
placed when President Theodore
Roosevelt got wind of the situa-
tion. Careful inquiry convinced
him that Gorgas was still the best
man for the job.

He was keenly aware
of the difficulties that
would have to be
faced in Panama.

Wallace resigned in June 1905,
frightened out of his wits, it was
said, by yellow fever, and was
replaced by John F. Stevens, who
gave full support to the Panama
Canal sanitation effort conducted
by Gorgas and his staff.
Gorgas now proceeded at full
steam doing what he had been
frustrated from doing from the
beginning -- to apply the same
measures against yellow fever,
malaria and other diseases in
Panama that had met with such
success in Cuba.
It was a huge undertaking, both
operationally and administra-
tively. Thousands of potentially
susceptible people thronged upon
the Canal project, and the protec-
tion of their health was in Gorgas'
hands. Gorgas and his staff were
again equal to the task, and posi-
tive results soon began to be felt,
with the result that the last case of
yellow fever was registered in the
Canal Zone in 1906 -- and it was
the only case registered during
the year.
Health conditions continued
to improve. Medical treatment
was available at sick camps and
hospitals all along the length of
the Canal. In 1908, there were
hospitals in Ancon, Colon,
Continued on next page ...

I I ,F I 4 A 9 A-


Miraflores, Paraiso, Culebra,
Empire, Las Cascadas, Bas
Obispo, Gorgona and Gatun, as
well as the Palo Seco Leper Asy-
lum, the Taboga Sanitarium and
16 sick camps all along the Canal
Gorgas wrote in the 1908 an-
nual report regarding the greatly
lowered death rate from malaria
(nearly half that of the previous
year in spite of having 10,000 more
employees), "I consider this the
most satisfactory showing in the
whole report, as malaria is now
the disease against which our sani-
tary efforts are principally di-
rected." Other diseases -- beri-
beri, pneumonia, typhoid fever
and dysentery -- were also down.
There were no cases of plague
during the year either, and, of
course, no yellow fever. The total
average work force on the Isth-
mus at that time was 43,057.
Deaths from "violence," mostly
"accidental trauma," continued to
be high, accounting for about one-
fifth of total deaths.
Gorgas got along well among
all nationalities and made friends
easily. It is said that the reason
sanitation work went so smoothly
amongst the proud residents of
Havana, Panama City and Colon
was because Gorgas, instead of
issuing orders, as he was empow-
ered to do, would gain coopera-
tion by explaining, convincing and
seeking understanding. He was
not only well-liked by his col-
leagues, but admired as well, and
was greatly honored throughout
the medical profession worldwide.

thing Gorgas got so much of the
sanitation work done under
Stevens, or Canal construction
could have gone much differently.
Gorgas was a handsome man.
The dark hair of his youth had
changed to a distinguished silver
by the time he got to Panama. He
liked to-read and had the habit of
having three books at a time on
his reading table -- one heavy
reading, one light and one in be-
tween -- and would read passages
out of each every day. He also
liked to dance, though, according
to accounts, he was more persis-
tent than accomplished. He en-
joyed singing, and his tenor voice
was known tojoin in heartily when
this was part of the evening's en-
tertainment. He was a charming
companion and delightful dinner
He was also something of an
outdoorsman. Story has it that
Gorgas and two companions were
the first to travel through the
Canal, anticipating the inaugural
transit by nearly two years. They
traveled from Pacific to Atlantic
by canoe, climbing up and over
the Culebra (Gaillard) Cut em-
bankment. They then got caught
in the flood-stage current of the
Chagres River and were hurtled
helplessly past terrified workers
trying to warn them that a blast
was about to be discharged in
their path.
Such was the swiftness of the
river that they would have been
unable to stop even if they had
understood thewild gesticulations
of the workers. As it was, they

Dignitaries and guests assemble for the official installation of a plaque
dedicated to William Crawford Gorgas, "Soldier ofHumanity." Erected
by Spanish American War veterans, the tablet can be seen from Gorgas
Road at what is now Gorgas Army Hospital in Ancon.

Dignatarios e invitados se congregan para la instalaci6n de una placa
dedicada a William Crawford Gorgas, "Soldado de la Humanidad".
Erigida por veteranos de la Guerra Hispano-Americana, la placa se
puede ver desde la Calle Gorgas en lo que es ahora el Hospital Gorgas.

It is said that he was the first
person consultants, congressmen,
writers and celebrities visiting the
Canal asked to see upon arriving
on the Isthmus.
It has been suggested that
Gorgas' fame and popularity may
have been the reason for some
friction between him and Col.
George W. Goethals, who be-
came the Canal's chief engineer
in 1907, following Stevens' resig-
nation. Whatever the reason, the
fact was that Gorgas' work be-
came more difficult under
Goethals, who gave it little im-
portance in the scheme of things.
It has been said that it was a good

passed unharmed through a
shower of falling rock and debris.
It was a fine adventure and re-
portedly greatly enjoyed by all
involved -- especially after it was
Welcomed into the Panama
social scene, Gorgas was a fre-
quent guest at the Friday night
palace receptions of President
Manuel Amador Guerrero and
his wife. President Amador, him-
self a doctor, was not optimistic
about Gorgas' attempts to get rid
of yellow fever, and his wife is
quoted as often telling him, "You
will never succeed in your efforts,
Colonel Gorgas. We have always

had yellow fever in Panama and
always will have." The two re-
portedly had a bet, that if yellow
fever were gotten rid of, she would
give Gorgas a dozen handker-
chiefs, with initials hand embroi-
dered by herself. Gorgas report-
edly had his handkerchiefs in less
than a year.
Gorgas was generous in shar-
ing his knowledge and experience,
traveling to a number of coun-
tries at their invitation to help
eradicate the scourge of disease.
The South Africa Chamber of
Mines asked his help with pneu-
monia among mine workers, and
he visited various countries in
South America, including Peru,
Ecuador and Brazil, as chief of
the Yellow Fever Commission of
the Rockefeller Foundation.
Gorgas's medical and personal
stature continued to grow
throughout his lifetime. He was
elected president of the Ameri-
can Medical Association in 1908
and, in 1914, was promoted to the
rank of brigadier general and ap-
pointed surgeon general of the
United States. Promoted to ma-

Gorgas' medical and
personal stature
continued to grow
thoughout his lifetime.

jor general in 1915, he worked to
reorganize and prepare the U.S.
Army Medical Corps for its World
War I responsibilities.
He received many awards and
honors, including the Distin-
guished Service Cross, an honor-
ary doctor of science degree from
England's Oxford University and
similar degrees from several U.S.
universities. He was named
Grand Officer of the Order of the
Crown of Italy and was awarded
the Star of Belgium by King
He celebrated his 65th birth-
day in Panama, taking another
look at the completed Panama
Canal. In May 1920, while stop-
ping in London on his way to
another yellow-fever-combating
mission in Africa, he was hospi-
talized with a stroke. While in
hospital, he received the Order of
St. Michael and St. George dur-
ing a personal visit from King
George V of England.
Sadly, Gorgas did not recover
from that stroke. Death came on
July 4, 1920. A funeral service,
giving him full military honors,
was held in St. Paul's Cathedral at
the request of the English gov-
His body was then taken to
Washington, D.C., where it lay in
state for four days, surrounded by
flags and smothered in flowers, at
the Church of the Epiphany.
The chief of Army chaplains
read the burial service. Dignitar-
ies serving as honorary pallbear-
ers included the secretary of war,
two Supreme Court justices, the
chairmen of House and Senate
military affairs committees, the
ambassador from Peru, the min-
ister of Ecuador and the charge'
d'affaires of Panama.
Gorgas is buried at Arlington
National Cemetery.

Crowds of Canal construction workers gather on October 14, 1913, to watch the
northbound transit of the first boat to pass through Miraflores Locks. Many oj
these workers were beneficiaries of Gorgas'work, living to see Canal construction

Same old mosquito carri

El mosquito representa nL

It is interesting to note that today's dengue-fever carrying mosquito and
the yellow fever mosquito of Panama Canal construction days are one and
the same -- theAedes aegypti, previously named the Stegomyia mosquito.

The same phenomenon applies today for dengue as it did then for yellow
fever -- because dengue has been absent from Panama for so long, the
majority of the population is not immune and, thus, susceptible to the
disease. Although dengue fever is rarely fatal, as yellow fever so often was,
in epidemic proportions, its de-
bilitating effects on the popula-
tion could seriously affect the op-
eration of the Panama Canal, as
well as other businesses and ac- ,
tivities within Panama.

And the method of control --
eliminating the water-holding, j
man-made containers that are the
mosquito's favorite breeding '
places from in and around homes
and worksites -- is the same today
for dengue as it was in construc-
tion days for yellow fever.

Reading theaccompanyingar- 1
tide about Dr. William Crawford
Gorgas and his work with tropi-
cal diseases reminds us of the Man-made containers arepicked up from
importance of following the rec- around a Canal construction-era home to
ommendations of modern-day eliminate breeding sites of the yellow fe-
sanitation experts in ensuring a ver-carrying "Stegomyia" ("Aedes aegypti")
healthful environment, mosquito.

Grupos de trabajadores de la construcci6n del Canal se reanen el 14 de octubre
de 1913 para observar el trdnsito hacia el norte del primer barco en cruzar las
Esclusas de Miraflores. Muchos de estos trabajadoresfueron beneficiados con
el trabajo de Gorgas, viviendo para ver terminada la construcci6n del Canal.

es new threat for Panama

eva amenaza para Panama

Es interesante sefialar que el mosquito que actualmente transmite el
dengue es el mismo mosquito que transmitia la fiebre amarilla durante la
construcci6n del Canal de Panama -- elAedes aegypti, llamado anteriormente
mosquito Stegomyia.
El mismo fen6meno que se aplica hoy con el dengue se aplicaba entonces
con la fiebre amarilla -- como el dengue estuvo ausente de Panama por tanto
tiempo, la mayoria de la poblaci6n no es inmune y, por consiguiente, es sus-
ceptible a la enfermedad. Aunque el dengue rara vez es fatal, como con fre-
cuencia lo era la fiebre amarilla,
en proporciones epid6micas, sus
efectos debilitantes en la pobla-
ci6n podrian afectar la operaci6n
del Canal, lo mismo que otros
actividades dentro de Panama.
Y el m6todo de control -- eli-
minar los objetos artificiales co-
lectores de agua, favoritos para la
reproducci6n de los mosquitos
dentro y alrededor de hogares y
>! sitios de trabajo -- es el mismo
hoy dia contra el dengue como lo
fuera contra la fiebre amarilla
durante la 6poca de la cons-
Al leer este articulo sobre el
Dr. William Crawford Gorgas y
su trabajo contra las enferme-
Recipientes son recogidos en los alrede- dades tropicales, valoramos la
dores de una casa del periodo de la importancia de seguir las reco-
construcci6n para eliminar los criaderos mendaciones de los expertos mo-
del mosquito "Stegomyia" ("Aedes dernos en sanidad para asegurar
aegypti"), transmisorde lafiebre amarilla. un ambiente mis saludable.

Las condiciones sanitarias si-
guieron mejorando. Se podia
obtener tratamiento m6dico en
campamentos para enfermos y
hospitales a todo lo largo del Ca-
nal. En 1908, habia hospitales en
Anc6n, Col6n, Miraflores,
Paraiso, Culebra, Emperador,
Las Cascadas, Bas Obispo,
Gorgona y Gatin, lo mismo que
en el leprosario de Palo Seco, el
sanatorio de Taboga y 16
Gorgas escribi6 en el informe
anual de 1908 que las muertes
por malaria habian bajado (casi a
la mitad del aiio pasado a pesar
de que habian 10,000 empleados
mas). "Es lo mas satisfactorio del
informe, ya que la malaria es
ahora la enfermedad hacia la cual
estin dirigidos nuestros princi-
pales esfuerzos de saneamiento".
Tambi6n disminuyeron enferme-
dades como beriberi, neumonia,

La estatura
profesional y humana
de Gorgas continue
agigantdndose a lo
largo de su vida.

fiebre tifoidea y disenteria. No
hubo casos de plaga durante el
afio, ni, por supuesto, de fiebre
amarilla. El total de la fuerza
laboral en el Istmo para esa 6poca
era de 43,057.
Las muertes "violentas", ma-
yormente "traumas accidentales",
seguian altas, representando casi
un quinto del total de muertes.
Gorgas se llevaba bien con
todas las nacionalidades y hacia
amigos con facilidad. Se dice que
la tarea de saneamiento se llev6 a
cabo tan bien entre los orgullosos
habitantes de las ciudades de La
Habana, Pnama y Col6n porque
Gorgas, en vez de ordenar como
podia hacerlo, motivaba a la gente
a cooperar explicando, conven-
ciendo y apelando a su compren-
si6n. No s6lo era querido y admi-
rado por sus colegas, sino que era
reconocido ampliamente por la
profesi6n m6dica mundial. Se
dice que era la primera persona
que consultores, congresistas,
escritores y celebridades pedian
ver cuando visitaban el Canal.
Se ha sugerido que la fama y
popularidad de Gorgas puede
haber sido la causa de cierta
fricci6n con el Cnel. George W.
Goethals, quien se convirti6 en
ingeniero jefe en 1907 tras la
renuncia de Stevens. No importa
la causa, el hecho es que la labor
de Gorgas se hizo mas dificil con
Goethals, quien le dio poca impor-
tancia dentro de su esquema. Se
ha dicho que fue bueno que
Gorgas hiciera tanta labor de
saneamiento con Stevens, o la
construcci6n del Canal hubiera
sido muy diferente.
Gorgas era un hombre
apuesto. El cabello oscuro de su
juventud habia cambiado a un
plateado distinguido cuando
arrib6 a Panama. Le gustaba leer
y tenia por habito mantener tres
libros a lavez en su mesa-- uno de
lectura profunda, uno ligero y uno
intermedio -- y lefa a diario pasajes
de cada uno. Tambi6n le gustaba

bailar, aunque, segin cuentan, era
mas persistente que diestro.
Disfrutaba del canto, y su voz de
tenor se escuchaba cuando lo
hacia entusiasmado en las veladas
nocturnas. Era un acompafiante
encantador y un invitado a cenar
Tambi6n era un deportista.
Las fuentes revelan que Gorgas y
dos acompafiantes fueron los
primeros en atravesar el Canal,
anticipAndose al transito inaugu-
ral por casi dos afios. Viajaron
del Pacifico al AtlAntico en canoa,
cruzaron a pie el terrapl6n del
Corte Culebra (Gaillard), y fue-
ron atrapados en una inundaci6n
del Rio Chagres, cuyas fuertes
corrientes los arrastraron a trav6s
de trabajadores asustados
gritindoles que se dirigian hacia
el sitio de una explosi6n.
Tal era la fuerza del rfo que no
hubieran pod.ido detenerse ni
aunque hubieran entendido las
sefiales desesperadas de los obre-
ros. Pero lograron pasar sin ha-
cerse dafio bajo una lluvia de rocas
yescombros. Fue unabuena aven-
tura que todos los involucrados
afirmaron haber disfrutado --
especialmente cuando 6sta ter-
Aceptado por la sociedad
panamefia, era invitado frecuente
del Presidente Manuel Amador
Guerrero y su esposa a las re-
cepciones de palacio. El
Presidente Amador, tambi6n
medico, no estaba optimista sobre
los intentos de Gorgas de eliminar
la fiebre amarilla, y se afirma que
su esposa le decia con frecuencia:
"Sus esfuerzos nunca triunfaran,
CoronelGorgas. Siempre hemos

Ecuador y Brasil como jefe de la
Comisi6n de la Fiebre Amarilla
de la Fundaci6n Rockefeller.
La estatura profesional y per-
sonal de Gorgas continu6
creciendotoda suvida. Fue electo
presidente de la Asociaci6n
M6dica Americana en 1908 y, en
1914, fue ascendido a general de
brigada y nombrado Cirujano
General de los Estados Unidos.
Promovido a general de divisi6n
en 1915, reorganiz6 y prepar6 al
Cuerpo M6dico del Ej6rcito para
su papel en la Primera Guerra
Recibi6 muchos premios y
honores, incluyendo la Cruz por
Servicio Distinguido, el titulo
honorario de doctor en ciencias
de la universidad inglesa de Ox-
ford y titulos similares en varias
universidades estadounidenses.
Fue nombrado Gran Oficial de la
Orden de la Corona de Italiay fue
galardonado con la Estrella de
B61gica por el Rey Alberto.
Celebr6 su 650. cumpleaiios
en Panama viendo de nuevo el
Canal terminado. En mayo de
1920, durante una parada en Lon-
dres camino a otra misi6n contra
la fiebre amarilla enAfrica, sufri6
una apoplejia. En el hospital
recibi6 la Orden de St. Michael y
St. George durante una visita del
Rey Jorge de Inglaterra.
Por desgracia, Gorgas no se
recuper6 de su enfermedad.
Muri6 el 4 de julio de 1920. El
funeral se realiz6 con honores
militares en la Catedral de St.
Paul a petici6n del gobierno
Su cuerpo fue llevado despu6s
a Washington, D.C., y puesto en

The several thousand water-filled pottery rings that the French Sisters of
Charity nuns had placed around plants in Ancon Hospital gardens
protected the plants from ants... and provided an ideal breeding site for
disease-carrying mosquitoes right on the hospital grounds.

Los varios miles de aros de alfareria llenos de agua que las monjas
francesas Hermanas de la Caridad colocaron alrededor de las plantas
en los jardines del Hospital de Anc6n protegian las plantas de las
hormigas...y ofrecian un criadero idealpara los mosquitos transmisores
de enfermedades justamente en los terrenos del hospital.

tenido y siempre tendremos fie-
bre amarilla en Panama". Se
cuenta que los dos apostaron que
si la fiebre amarilla cedia, ella
bordaria las iniciales del m6dico
en una docena de paiiuelos.
Gorgas obtuvo sus paiiuelos en
menos de un afio.
Gorgas era generoso con su
conocimiento y experiencia,
viajando a varios paises por
invitaci6n para erradicar las en-
fermedades. La Camara Minera
de Africa del Sur pidi6 su ayuda
para combatir la neumonia entre
los mineros, y visit6 varios pauses
deSurAm6rica, incluyendo Per6,

vigilia por cuatro dias, rodeado
de banderas y cubierto de flores,
en la Iglesia de la Epifania.
El capellan jefe del Ej6rcito
ley6 el servicio funerario. Entre
los dignatarios que acompafiaron
el f6retro estaban el Secretario
de Guerra, dosjueces de la Corte
Suprema, los jefes de los comit6s
de asuntos militares del Senado y
la Camara, el embajador del Peru,
el ministro de Ecuador y el encar-
gado de negocios de la Embaj ada
de Panama.
Gorgas esta enterrado en el
Cementerio Nacional de Arling-

ilo veintiuno

Ent :o eo a

Panama, honramos a sus construct

especial a William Crawford Gor
gas, quecre el ambience saluda
esencilpara su construction.


elpuS mento del 809 aniversario

Spillway del Canal de Panami

Viemes 12 de agosto de 1994

Ambiente sano era clave para el esfuerzo

El uso de conocimientos medicos salvo vidas,

tiempo y dinero durante la construcci6n del Canal

En el 80 aniversario del Canal
de Panamd, le rendimos tributo al
Dr. William Crawford Gorgas, un
gran humanista, quien, por medio
de su trabajo con las enfermedades
tropicales y la sanidad dej6 su
huella mejorando la condici6n
humana. En ningin lugarfue su
contribuci6n mds grande que en
Panamd, donde su conocimiento,
experiencia y cuidado, fueron in-
dispensablespara la construcci6n
del Canal.

Mientras los ingenieros a
cargo de la construcci6n del Ca-
nal inspeccionaban, calculaban,
dibujaban pianos, tomaban deci-
siones sobre equipos y suministros
y supervisaban la obra, otra fuerza
trabajaba contra ellos. Era un
ej6rcito de mosquitos que podian
provocar la mortal fiebre amarilla
o malaria con cada sanguinaria
picada a sus victimas. Habian
otras enfermedades problemiti-
cas: la peste bub6nica, transmitida
por la pulga de las ratas; la di-
senterfa, flagelo de condiciones
insalubres; y la pulmonia, trans-
mitida entre los empleados que

sectos a su interns por la milicia,
sus estudios de medicina como
filtima oportunidad para un
nombramiento militar tras perder
la oportunidad en West Point, a
sobrevivir a la fiebre amarilla y

General de Divisi6n
William Crawford Gorgas

conocer a su futura esposa
mientras ambos se recuperaban
de la enfermedad, a estar en La
Habana cuando el Dr. Walter
Reed y sus colegas probaron la
teoria del Dr. Carlos J. Finlay de
que la fiebre amarilla era

quien lo nombr6 general
brigada y lo hizo jefe de artiller
Asf, Willie creci6 en
ambiente militar. Sus primer
aiios pasaron sin novedad, excel
por su experiencia durante
Guerra Civil y su continuo inter
por proseguir una carrera milit
Una inicial falta de interns p
los estudios di6 un giro radical
sus iltimos afios en la Universid
del Sur, y este reci6n encontra
interns por los estudios se ma
tuvo a lo largo de su vida.
Su amoroso padre no favored
la carrera militar de Willie, porq
las mudanzas y ausencias consta
tes afectabanlavida familiar, per
a pesar de sus sentimientos, apo
a su hijo totalmente.
Josiah Gorgas suspir6 alivia
cuando Willie no pudo entrar
West Point, y hasta convenci6
muchacho para que estudiara
yes con un tio en Nueva Orleal
A pesar de que Willie se apli
con diligencia, fue obvio que
estaba hecho para las leyes, y
sinti6 aliviado al tomar una epid
mia de fiebre amarilla en Nue
Orleans como excusa para acort

Brigadas de fumigaci6n como esta, llevando escaleras, cubos y otro equipo, iban de casa en casa en la
ciudades de Panamd y Col6n, selldndolas con papel yfumigdndolas para matar los mosquitos.

vivian en cuartos cercanos.
A pesar de que la malaria fue
la mis mortal, ninguna otra
enfermedad provocabamas temor
entre valientes y timidos por igual
que la fiebre amarilla, rival de la
fuerza laboral durante los
primeros esfuerzos franceses y
causa significativa de su fracaso.
Quien creyese en el destino
estarfa totalmente convencido de
que el Dr. William Crawford
Gorgas estaba destinado para su
papel en el control de enferme-
dades en la construcci6n del Ca-
nal de Panama.
Ya sea destino o simple
coincidencia, el hecho. es que
desde su nacimiento, atendido por
uno de los pocos doctores que
apoyaban la teoria de las en-
fermedades transmitidas por in-

transmitida por el mosquito
Stegomyia (llamado luego Aedes
aegypti), las experiencias en la
vida de Gorgas parecfan ligarlo a
la enfermedad que eventualmente
William Crawford Gorgas,
llamado "Willie" por su familia y
amigos, naci6 el 3 de octubre de
1854, en Mobile, Alabama, siendo
sus padres el Tnte. Josiah Gorgas
y Amelia Gayle Gorgas. Junto
con sus hermanos mis pequefios
formaron una familia afectuosa y
Su madre era una dama surefia
de suave voz, su padre era un
soldado en el ej6rcito, pero
despu6s, en 1861, renunci6 a esa
posici6n, viaj6 a Montgomery,
Alabama, y se uni6 a las fuerzas
Confederadas de Jefferson Davis,

su afio de estudios de derecho

De regreso en casa, e inquieto
por conseguir oficio, encontr6 otra
manera de entrar al ej6rcito --
seria m6dico militar.
Papa Gorgas estaba encantado
con la parte de m6dico, pero no
con la otra, explicando sus puntos
de vista sobre la vida familiar y re-
cordando a su hijo que los m6dicos
militares eran, en ese entonces,
tenidos en baja estima entre sus
colegas y el p6blico en general.
Sin embargo, eljoven Gorgas
estaba decidido. El inquieto
hombre de 22 aiios se dirigi6 en
1876 hacia la ahora famosa
Escuela de Medicina del Hospi-
tal Bellevue, la primera escuela
de medicina de su clase, fundada
en Nueva York en 1860. Segradu6
en 1879, y, tras un afio de


Esta vieja jaula portdtilpara enfermos de fiebre amarilla fue usada en
el Hospital deAnc6n durante los inicios de la construcci6n para aislar

cia a los afectados por la enfermedad.
internado en Bellevue, comenz6
r su carrera militar como teniente
con la Unidad M6dica del

do Ej6rcito. Sirvi6 en dos bases
diferentes en Texas antes de su
al asignaci6n casual a Fuerte Brown
le- donde habia una epidemia de
ns. fiebre amarilla en progreso-- ca-
c6 sual porque seria alli donde 61
n mismo sobrevivirfa un caso de
se fiebre amarilla y por el hecho de
te- que alli conoceria a su futura
va esposa.
tar Gorgas, no siendo inmune, te-
nia prohibido atender alos pacien-
tes en Fuerte Brown; sin embargo,
J incapaz de resistirse a la oportuni-
dad, particip6 en la autopsia de
un reci6n fallecido paciente de
fiebre amarilla y fue arrestado
por desobedecer 6rdenes. Como
estaban cortos de personal, y co-
mo Gorgas ya se habia expuesto a
Sla infecci6n, fue puesto en libertad
y se le asign6 a trabajar en la sec-
Sci6n de enfermos de fiebre
Como el microbi6logoy qufmi-
co franc6s Louis Pasteur apenas
iniciaba sus estudios pioneros so-
bre la teoria bacteriol6gica de en-
fermedades, se sabia poco o nada
sobre la fiebre amarilla (o tantas
otras enfermedades), ciertamente
menos el hecho de que era causa-
da por un virus y era transmitida
de una sola forma, por la picada
de un mosquitoStegomyia hembra
is Los antibi6ticos no se
conocerian sino en unos 40 afios,
y, en todo caso, no hubieran sido
efectivos contra una infecci6n vi-
ral. Al ser contraida, la en-

fermedad simplemente debfa
recorrer su terrible curso, siendo
su fltima etapa el temible "v6mito
negro", causado por el desborde
de la sangre por las membranas
mucosas del est6mago e intestinos

Ninguna otra
enfermedad infundia
tanto temor en la
gente como lo hizo
la fiebre amarilla.

de la victima. Pocos pacientes
que llegaron a esta etapa sobre-
Una joven mujer, Marie
Doughty, se encontraba en Fuerte
Brown visitando a su hermana, la
esposa del comandante de la base,
Cnel. William J. Lyster. Aunque
los residentes del fuerte eran su-
puestamente mantenidos lejos de
las areas contaminadas por la
enfermedad, ella termin6 conta-
giada de la fiebre amarilla, y fue
llamado a atenderla el deso-
bediente Dr. Gorgas.
El suyo era un caso severo, Ile-
gando a la usualmente fatal etapa
del "v6mito negro". Ya habia una
tumba lista para recibir sus restos,
pues al no saber las causas de la
enfermedad era costumbre ente-
rrar a las victimas lo mAs pronto
posible como medida para evitar
mis contagios.

El Laboratorio Conmemorativo Gorgas,fundado en 1928 en laAvenida
JustoArosemena en la ciudad de Panam, fue el ramo de investigaci6n
del Institute Conmemorativo Gorgas de Medicina Tropical Preventiva
Inc. Financiado conjuntamente por Panamd y los Estados Unidos, su
ubicaci6n en "el coraz6n de laAmdrica tropical"y en "la encrucijada del
mundo" lo convirti6 en lugar ideal para el estudio de enfermedades
tropicales. Ahora forma parte del Ministerio de Salud de Panamd.

Viemes 12 de agosto de 1994

Spillway del Canal de Panama

Suplemento del 800 aniversario

Pero Doughty no muri6, y em-
pez6 a recuperarse rapidamente.
Sin embargo, el Dr. Gorgas cay6
enfermo, presentando los fuertes
escalofrios que marcaban el inicio
de la enfermedad, junto a fiebres
severas. En Gorgas, la enferme-
dad no lleg6 ala etapa del "v6mito
negro". Como su caso era relativa-
mente leve y el de ella habia sido
severo y complicado, sus recu-
peraciones coincidieron, y pronto
ambos convalecieron juntos.
Poco despu6s que Gorgas re-
gresara al trabajo, miembros del
hogar Lyster se enfermaron, y
Gorgas realiz6 visitas diarias para
cuidarlos, visitas que se con-
virtieron en un agradable habito
ain despu6s que todos se habian
recuperado. Tras el regreso de
Doughty a su casa, el floreciente
romance continu6 por carta. Se
volvieron a encontrar cuando la
madre de Gorgas invit6 a Doughty
a su casa en Tuscaloosa, Ala-
bama. Durante estavisita Gorgas
le pidi6 matrimonioy ella acept6.
Se casaron el 15 de septiembre de
En 1888, Gorgas ayudaba a
combatir una epidemia de fiebre
amarilla en Florida, y en 1898,
durante la guerra contra Espafia,
el entonces Mayor Gorgas fue
asignado a un campamento del
Ej6rcito en Cuba. Fue durante
esta 6poca que se asoci6 con el
Dr. Carlos Finlay, quien hacia
mucho sabia que la fiebre amarilla
era transmitida por un mosquito,
y con el Dr. Walter Reed y otros
que finalmente probarfan que la
teoria era correcta.
Los primeros experimentos
con mosquitos en voluntarios hu-
manos eran poco convincentes.
Los m6dicos se preguntaban si
iban por el camino equivocado.
Mientras Reed estaba en los Esta-
dos Unidos, su reemplazo, el Dr.
Jesse W. Lazear, enferm6 grave-
mente de fiebre amarilla. En su
lecho de muerte, explic6 a Gorgas
que se habia dejado picar por un
mosquito Stegomyia infectado,
sefialando al principal sospe-

De vuelta en Cuba, Reed llam6
a voluntarios para experimentos
adicionales. Se les prometi6 la
mejor atenci6n m6dica si queda-
ban infectados, ademis de certifi-
cados de inmunidad y $250 en
efectivo. Se excluy6 a los residen-
tes locales porque los voluntarios
debian ser reci6n Ilegados no in-
munes, por lo que el grupo se
conform6 de soldados nortea-
mericanos e inmigrantes.
Reed realiz6 una serie de ex-
perimentos que probaron la rela-
ci6n directa entre los mosquitos
Stegomyia y la infecci6n, desde la
picada a una persona infectada, a
la incubaci6n y transmisi6n al pi-
car a otra persona no inmune.
Los experimentos tambi6n

Las personas tenian
que vaciar, cubrir o
limpiar vasijas con
agua acumulada y
poner alambre.

refutaron la teoria de que la gente
podia infectarse por contacto con
ropa, sabanas, excrementoyotras
descargas corporales de pacientes
con fiebre amarilla. Otros experi-
mentos demostraron que era de
hecho sangre infectada la que
favorecia la enfermedad, la cual
era causada por un agente
Las conclusiones eran obvias,
y Gorgas emprendi6 la batalla.
Pero, ic6mo pelear contra un
enemigo tan pequefio, escurridizo
y numeroso?
Aqui, Gorgas encontr6 varias
ventajas estrat6gicas. Sabia que
todos los mosquitos pasan a trav6s
de una etapa larval de ocho o nue-
ve dias, y analiz6 el ambiente de
los criaderos del Stegomyia -- to-
dos los objetos artificiales co-
lectores de agua encontrados alre-

dedor del hogar promedio de la
6poca, incluyendo las cisternas y
tanques usados para recoger agua
para uso dom6stico.
Estos recipientes artificiales
eran el sitio preferido de los mos-
quitos, y los humanos su mas bus-
cada compafifa. Hasta las jarras,
vasos ypotes dentro del hogar po-
dian estar llenos de huevos y lar-
Armado de conocimiento so-
bre los habitos del mosquito, Gor-
gas pudo reducir sus esfuerzos a
su habitat particular.
La gente tenia que vaciar, cu-
brir, forrar o limpiar los recipien-
tes de agua. Se limpiaron los
drenajes, se cubrieron los barriles
ycisternas de agua, yse instalaron
grifos para sacar el agua sin quitar
los forros protectores. Todos los
sitios donde pudiera alojarse este
mosquito ingenioso, sus larvas o
huevos, no importa cuAn pe-
quefios o escondidos estuvieran,
se buscaron y erradicaron. Los
lugares muy grandes o no aptos
para vaciar o tapar fueron cu-
biertos con kerosene, el cual
flotaba sobre el agua sofocando a
las larvas en la superficie.
Gorgas, con su tranquilo estilo
surefio, obtuvo cooperaci6n dan-
do 6rdenes con suavidady aplican-
do multas a quienes incumplian.
De esta manera, la fiebre amarilla
fue virtualmente eliminada en La
Tras acabar con la terrible fie-
bre amarilla, Gorgas y su equipo
pudieron centrar su atenci6n en
el mAs dificil problema de la ma-
Sir Richard Ross, un m6dico
ingl6s contemporaneo de Gorgas,
habia demostrado en 1898 que el
parasito de la malaria era transmi-
tido por el mosquito An6feles.
Cuatro afios despu6s, en 1902,
gan6 el Premio Nobel en fisiologia
y medicina por su trabajo.
La malaria es distinta a la fie-
bre amarilla porque el que contrae
la enfermedad no se hace inmune
de otros ataques. AdemAs, el
An6feles es un mosquito muy di-
ferente, ya que no posee las fasti-

El Edificio deAdministraci6n del Hospital deAnc6n es mostrado aqui el 2 de septiembre de 1920. Hoypoco
visible al observador casual debido alas grandes estructuras erigidas a su alrededor, el edificio, con sus torres
majestuosas y atractivo jardin, luce casi igual actualmente.

El Cnel. William C. Gorgas, a la extrema derecha, se convirti6 en
miembro de la Comisi6n del Canal Istmico en 1907. Otros miembros
que aparecen en estafotografia del 25 de agosto de 1910 son, desde la
izquierda, el Tte. Cnel. William L. Sibert; Joseph Bucklin Bishop;
Maurice H. Thatcher; el Contraalmirante Harry H. Rousseau; el Cnel.
George W Goethals, presidente e ingeniero jefe del Canal; el Tte. Cnel.
David D. Gaillard, y el Tte. Cnel Harry F. Hodges.

diosas caracteristicas hogarefias
del Stegomyia que le hacen
comparativamente facil de con-
trolar. ElAn6feles puede criarse
en cualquier parte, prefiriendo
los herbazales al borde de los
pantanos, arroyos, lagos y charcos
o hasta el agua colectada en las
huellas de vehiculos o animales
en el lodo. Puede encontrarse en
cualquier lado, desde patios hasta
Gorgas y su equipo sanitario
drenaron pantanos, rellenaron
agujeros que podian acumular
agua y cortaron la hierba y arbus-
tos que eran los sitios favoritos
del mosquito. Con elloredujeron
considerablemente la enferme-
dad, pero no la eliminaron total-
Cuando comenzaron los pla-
nes para un Canal en Panama,
Gorgas, con su experiencia en
Cuba, era la selecci6n 16gica para
el trabajo, y fue nombrado jefe de
sanidad en abril de 1904. Cono-
ciendo los problemas que las en-
fermedades habian representado
para los franceses, sabia bien los
problemas que enfrentaria.
Parece incredible ahora, pero a
pesar del conocimiento reci6n ad-
quirido en Cuba sobre transmi-
si6n y prevenci6n de fiebre ama-
rilla, la mayoria de la gente, inclu-
yendo los nuevos funcionarios del
Canal, no estaban convencidos,
aun cuando la evidencia les era
presentada y repetida. Asi es que
Gorgas no encontr6 un apoyo in-
mediato y decidido para su labor
en Panama.
Una de las peculiaridades de
la fiebre amarilla era que, luego
de una epidemia, la mayoria de
las personas sobrevivientes que-
daban inmunes y el grado de en-
fermedad disminuirfa hasta que
el siguiente grupo de personas no
inmunes arribara. Fue durante
uno de estos bajones que Gorgas
y su grupo lleg6 a Panama.
Gorgas comprendi6 el pro-
blema claramente y supo que una
vez que la fuerza laboral comen-
zara a llegar, la enfermedad volve-
rfa a presentarse a menos que
tomaran medidas.
Estaba en lo correcto. La fie-
bre amarilla si reapareci6.
Tambi6n reaparecieron las pilas
de atafides en las plataformas de
carga. Se dijo que el Ingeniero
Jefe John F. Wallace trajo ata6des

al Istmo para 61 y su esposa... por
si acaso.
La ignorancia y la burocracia
eran tangrandes que Gorgas pudo
hacer muy poco para controlar
los mosquitos. Las 6rdenes de
compra para mallas y otros su-
ministros eran cortadas, demora-
das o ignoradas completamente.
Esta falta de apoyo administrativo
hizo que su trabajo pareciera un
fracaso, y estaba a punto de ser
reasignado yreemplazado cuando
el Presidente Theodore Roosevelt
se enter6 de la situaci6n. Luego

Gorgas sabia
perfectamente bien
las dificultades que
le esperaban
en Panama.

de una cuidadosa investigaci6n,
Roosevelt se convenci6 de que
Gorgas era el mejor hombre para
el trabajo.
Wallace renunci6 en junio de
1905, aterrado, se dijo, por la fie-
bre amarilla, y fue reemplazado
por John F. Stevens, quien dio to-
tal apoyo al esfuerzo de sanea-
miento del Canal de Panama
conducido por Gorgas y su equipo.
Entonces, Gorgas procedi6
con todo a hacer lo que no le
habian permitido hacer desde el
principio-- aplicar en Panama las
mismas medidas contra la fiebre
amarilla, la malaria y otras
enfermedades que habian tenido
tanto 6xito en Cuba.
Fue una empresa colosal, tanto
operativa como administrativa-
mente. Miles de personas poten-
cialmente susceptibles se incor-
poraban al proyecto canalero, y
su salud estaba en manos de
Gorgas. El y su equipo estaban
preparados para la tarea, y se
comenzaron a ver resultados
positivos, con el resultado de que
el l6timo caso de fiebre amarilla
se registr6 en la Zona del Canal
en 1906 -- y fue el inico caso
registrado durante ese afio.

Continfta en la siguiente pdgina


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