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The Distinctive Characteristics of the Disease

Cholera is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria of vibrio cholerae type. The distinctive characteristics of the disease are damage of thin intestine, watery diarrhea, vomiting, rapid loss of liquid, electrolytes. Those symptoms lead to the development of different degrees of dehydration up to hypoglycemic shock and death. As a rule, the disease spreads in the form of epidemics. The latent period of cholera lasts from a few hours up to 5 days (more frequent 2-3 days) (Wachsmuth 103). The severity of the symptoms expressed in clinical displays can be distinguished as easy, average, heavy and extremely heavy, depending on the degree of dehydration. Cholera is most dangerous for children, who endure dehydration much worse than adults. Nowadays, the basic principles of therapy for patients with cholera are renewal of the amount of circulatory blood, electrolyte composition of body tissues and, last but not least influencing issue, removing the causative agent of the disease.

History of the Disease

In the middle of XIX century, doctors in London did not have sufficient methods of diagnostics and preventive measures at their disposal. Also, reasons of social and economic character affected public heath greatly and made the 1854 epidemics possible. One of the most serious problems was the London’s sewerage system, or, to be more precise, its absence at the time. The famous Bazalgette sewerage system was yet to be constructed, and until then those functions were executed by the waters of river Thames. Naturally, the contamination of the water was above the maximum acceptable level. In fact, the sanitary situation was awful. Vibrio cholerae bacteria infested the river and the underground waters. No wonder that the epidemic was not the first one (the previous ones happened in 1832 and 1849) and not the last one, unfortunately. In 1854, the epidemic burst in today fashionable district of Soho and spread really quickly. One of the reasons for this was incorrect determination of the causes. The popular opinion was that contamination occurred via air whereas drinking water taken from Thames was the primary source of deadly bacteria.


Snow started researching the topic long before the epidemic in question, but the results of his work, which proved to be correct later, were at first ignored by the general population due to the business and official lobby, who found it inconvenient for themselves to admit that the problem was in the sewerage system. Snow took samples of drinking water from the pumps in Soho region and found out that it was infested with pathogen bacteria. Further investigation of the causes revealed that the start of the epidemics was due to the disposal of an infected baby’s washing water into the cesspit of the district. The elimination of the original pump gradually solved the problem, no more people got infected. Also, Snow and his assistants found out that people who drank beer did not get the disease due to the temperature processing of the liquid during brewage. This circumstance gave birth to numerous jokes of that time.

Finally, Snow’s achievements received full credit. A memorial sign and a handleless pump are currently situated as a monument to Snow near the place where the original pump stood in Soho (Johnson, p.190). The anti-epidemics experience was duly analyzed and used in subsequent similar cases with different efficiency level. The merit of Snow’s team was not only in the analytical capabilities but also in the courage to face the economic and social lobby of influential people, who hindered the discovery of truth.

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