Chapter 3 : Cholera

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Cholera is a horrible disease. At first, the symptoms produce no more than a surprised look as the bowels empty without any warning. In the 19th century, quarantine involved the inspection of ships, cargo, and passengers for evidence of contagious diseases. Inspections were conducted at an offshore quarantine station where ships were berthed and the passengers were examined for cholera, typhus, smallpox, leprosy, yellow fever, and plague. The federal quarantine was to be for 20 days but would apply only to steerage immigrant passengers, and not cabin passengers, even if they originated from the same cholera-ridden port. In 1892 a prominent New York physician said, “The history of every cholera epidemic in this country has proven that the disease entered our port on account of defective quarantine and it has been carried to us mainly by filthy immigrants.” To treat the violent diarrhea of cholera, health authorities in Germany, England, and France recommended a variety of nostrums and quack remedies: vinegar, camphor, wine, horseradish, mint, mustard plaster, leeches, bloodletting, laudanum, calomel, steam baths, and hot baths. Today, oral rehydration treatment (ORT) involves oral or intravenous administration of a solution containing glucose, sodium chloride, potassium, and lactate. It has been claimed that pollution, especially sewage, has ended more lives than smallpox and bubonic plague. Cholera, the most feared of all these sewage-related diseases, has provoked global horror and terror.

Citation: Sherman I. 2007. Cholera, p 33-49. In Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816346.ch3
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