Cholera: One of Five Infamous Epidemics We Hope We Never See

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MONSTER SOUP: CHOLERA

watertower.jpg"¢ The classic symptom of Asiatic cholera is watery diarrhea leading to rapid dehydration. It occurs when someone carrying the bacteria Vibrio cholerae poops in your water supply.

"¢ There were six worldwide cholera epidemics from 1817 to 1923. Though you don't hear much about it, we are now in the midst of a seventh epidemic, which began in 1961 and kills over 100,000 people every year.

"¢ One of most well-known episodes in the history of epidemics occurred at a famous water pump in London. When a radical doctor plotted the cases of cholera on a map, he found they clustered around a pump on Broad Street. Desperate officials removed the pump's handle, stemming the deaths.

"¢ The man who drew that map, Dr. John Snow, is called the father of modern epidemiology. Even though germs would not be discovered for several decades, Snow was able pinpoint the bacteria using statistics. You can have a pint at an original pub, now called The John Snow, across from the pump.

johnsnowpub.jpg

Learn more about cholera, including a look on the bright side...

"¢ During one of the London outbreaks, the water in the Thames River got so bad that an 1828 cartoon dubbed it "monster soup" full of "hydras, and gorgons, and chimeras dire."

"¢ The bright side: Huge improvements in sanitation. Thanks to cholera, our yards no longer feature open cesspools.

"¢ Some scientists speculate that cholera may be one of nature's way of controlling the population in growing areas. It's as if, whenever our rivers become too slow, brackish, and full of sewage, as the Thames was then, cholera comes along to thin our ranks and force us to clean up the mess.

"¢ Cholera recently broke out in Iraq, with over 30,000 people reportedly affected.

Coming tomorrow: Yellow Fever. Now go bone up on syphilis and plague.

October 3, 2007 - 7:15am
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