In the U.S. today is Presidents Day, a national holiday originally intended to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, but later expanded to include honoring Abraham Lincoln and other presidents.
While most people today associate malaria with developing countries — and indeed, most cases do occur in sub-Saharan Africa — the disease was quite common in the U.S. in the 1800s, as this map shows.
More than one million cases of malaria were reported during the Civil War alone, and the disease affected people in the U.S. up until the early 1950s. In fact, nearly one-fifth of all U.S. presidents (8 out of 45) are known to have had malaria, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
– George Washington first contracted malaria at age 17 in Virginia, and while he did not die from the disease he suffered from recurring bouts throughout his life.
– Abraham Lincoln also got the disease while growing up in Illinois.
– James Monroe got malaria when he visited a particularly swampy area of the Mississippi river.
– Andrew Jackson contracted malaria while on the Seminole military campaigns in Florida.
– Ulysses S. Grant suffered from frequent bouts of malaria in the late 1850s while living on a farm outside of St. Louis.
– James A. Garfield acquired malaria at age 16 in Ohio.
– Theodore Roosevelt came down with malaria after a visit to the Amazon rainforest.
– John F. Kennedy contracted malaria while in the Solomon Islands during World World II.
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