by A Former Surgeon in the Service of the Honorable East India Company
Epidemic cholera is truly awful. Cholera causes violent cramps, vomiting and diarrhea that are so frequent and serious that the body will quickly dehydrate. A person infected with cholera can die within a few hours because the dehydration can be so severe that the blood coagulates. Cholera was deadly because of several longstanding inaccurate thoughts on its cause: namely, that ‘inferior’ people with personal failings, or members of a different culture, combined with exposure to environmental filth, were likely to fall victim. While environmental issues are a cause–contaminated drinking water is a major contributor to cholera outbreaks–during the 1800s and onwards, physicians believed that personal characteristics also contributed to cholera. This volume offers a snapshot in time on these beliefs manifested in terms of approach and treatment. Sadly, cholera is far from a dated disease. Yemen is currently facing a major cholera crisis, with smaller outbreaks recently reported in Somalia and Darfur.