Radio Cadena Agramonte
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Friday, August 14, 2020

Finlay and his extraordinary contribution to humanity

Havana, Aug 14.- The contributions of Cuban scientist Carlos J. Finlay, considered a benefactor of humanity, are today an unavoidable reference in the battle against the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

On August 14, 1881, Dr. Finlay, before the members of the Royal Academy of Medical, Physical and Natural Sciences of Havana, presented his famous work entitled The mosquito hypothetically considered as a transmitter of yellow fever.

Finlay thus completed his brilliant discovery, which for the first time showed the world a new way of contracting epidemic diseases through an intermediate agent.

His finding represented a turning point in medicine, according to which ailments could only spread through direct contact between people or due to the influence of an environmental factor.

The remarkable postulate of preventing yellow fever by destroying the transmitting agent was tested in 1901, with a massive fight against the mosquito in Havana, to eliminate the larvae wherever they thrived.

The certainty of Finlay's ideas was demonstrated and the fearsome disease registered a marked decline, and for the first time in a health report it was declared defeated thanks to the sanitation campaign advocated by Finlay.

Its hygienic recommendations made it possible to eradicate yellow fever in Panama, Rio de Janeiro, Veracruz, New Orleans and other places in the Western Hemisphere, where repeated outbreaks claimed an incalculable number of fatalities.

With this precedent in May 1902, Finlay was appointed Superior Chief of Health, a mandate that allowed him to draw up the first sanitary code in the country and order the mandatory vaccination against smallpox throughout the country, systematic sanitation, and dedicate notable efforts to prevent diseases transmitted by domestic animals.

Proposed several times to the Nobel Prize between 1905 and 1915, Finlay received in 1907 the Mary Kingsley Medal, conferred by the Liverpool Institute of Tropical Medicine, and a year later the order of the Legion of Honor, granted by the government of France. (Text and photo: PL)