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AGUE, a malarial disease transmitted by mosquitoes and characterized by intermittent fevers and chills, was a leading cause of chronic illness across America from the colonial period until 1900. While malaria is most often found in tropical and subtropical climates, American settlers were plagued by ague near wetlands, even in the temperate north. Because the disease originated in Europe and Africa, its effects on Native American populations were often devastating. By 1900, draining wetlands for agriculture and development led to a dramatic decline in malarial disease in all regions but the South; there, eradication required extensive public health campaigns during the first half of the twentieth century.


Cassedy, James H. Medicine in America: A Short History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Leavitt, Judith Walzer and Ronald L. Numbers, eds. Sickness and Health in America: Readings in the History of Medicine and Public Health. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.

Loren ButlerFeffer

See alsoEpidemics and Public Health ; Malaria ; Wetlands .

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a·gue / ˈāˌgyoō/ • n. archaic malaria or some other illness involving fever and shivering. ∎  a fever or shivering fit. DERIVATIVES: a·gued adj. a·gu·ish adj.

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ague †acute fever XIII; malarial fever XIV. — OF. :- medL. acūta, sb. use (sc. febris fever) of fem. of L. acūtus ACUTE.

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ague (ay-gew) n. see malaria.