Epidemic Cholera: The Mission and Mystery, Haunts and Havocs, Pathology and Treatment

by A Former Surgeon in the Service of the Honorable East India Company

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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.