CHOLERA | Victorian Londons GRIM Epidemic (2023)


In 1831 a terrifying new epidemic arrived in London, bringing with it fear and panic⁠—and a sense of urgency about the city's sanitation problems.

In the 1700s, Great Britain began transforming into an industrialised nation. By the 1800s, London was the largest city in the world as a result of the social changes brought about by industrialisation, such as mass migration from the countryside to the town.

But London was a city overwhelmed by the waste products of its ever-growing population, the majority of whom lived in the squalor of overcrowded slums. Human waste piled up in courtyards and overflowed from basement cesspits into the gutters and waterways.

#victorian london
#victorian era
#the great stink


Cholera in victorian london, victorian london had been undergoing a period of industrialization and mass production.

The population was at an all-time high, which brought about many problems and one of those included the poor sanitation of the city, which led to some devastating consequences.

Please continue to support my channel by subscribing during the 19th century four major outbreaks of cholera between 1832 and 1866 ravaged london communities and led to the death of thousands of people in 1831, a dangerous new epidemic began in london.

The people were full of panic and they rushed around to find a solution to the city's sanitation problems.

In the 1700s, great britain began, transforming into an industrialized nation and by the 1800s.

The revolution was well underway.

London was the largest city in the world.

At the time, and many people moved there from their countrysides to earn money in the large city due to the ever-growing population and popularity of the area, london became overwhelmed by waste products.

The majority of people lived in squalor in overcrowded slums, where human waste piled high.

In courtyards and overflowed from basement cesspits into the gutters and waterways, it is not a nice place to live and the smell was bad, but this was the least of their worries, because this poor sanitation brought about new disease outbreaks such as typhoid and scarlet fever.

However, cholera was new to the people and led to a solution to the mounting levels of human excrement in the streets.

A positive that came from the devastating outbreak of cholera was that the reforms that were made during the time due to poor medical knowledge at the time there was no cure, and once you got it, there was little you could do to get rid of it.

It would cause painful and continuous diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, resulting in dehydration from fluid loss, lethargy, erratic heartbeat sunken eyes and dry and shriveled skin with a characteristic bluish tinge.

The people did not understand where the disease had come from, so they blamed the people that had emigrated to london from other countries and they began to call it.

The foreign epidemic cholera was not the only disease that appeared and after the first outbreak in 1831, it was followed shortly after by influenza and typhoid, the government became concerned, and this prompted an investigation into the sanitization of london.

They approached the lawyer and leading social reformer.

Edwin chadwick to carry out an inquiry into sanitation.

He publicized a report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population.

He reported that there was a direct link between poor living conditions, disease and life expectancy.

It was this investigation that inspired the public health act of 1848.

As well as the emergent of general board of health, of which chadwick was the first director, chadwick became passionate about improving the living conditions of the poor and how they could resolve the issue.

He was put forward that measures such as cleaning drainage and ventilation would improve.

The health of working people, although chadwick, had the greatest of intentions.

He accidentally made the situation worse when he began a rapid removal of human waste to improve the bad air that caused disease.

The process of removing waste meant dumping it into the river thames, which was the main source of water for the public.

He had contaminated the drinking water even further, which only increased the risk of cholera.

It was thought at the time that disease was spread through foul smelling air and chadwick based his measures upon this belief.

It was believed that diseases were caused by the presence of decaying particles which caused the air to become poisonous vapor, and this was evident by the disgusting smell.

The theory was initiated in the middle ages and the belief lasted for several centuries.

These theorists believe that it was spread from person to person which was proven by those that cared for the sick, frequently fell sick themselves, measures to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases were based on these two theories and measures were put in play to improve Sanitation and good hygiene practices, they included washing walls and floors, as well as removing the foul-smelling saws such as decaying waste and sewage people, were also put into quarantine and free movement was restricted.

This helped keep people from being in contact with others.

This method was also used during the black death and infected houses were forced to quarantine.

Fire was also used alongside these measures, by attempting to destroy infected materials and mars were also used to purify the air that they breathed.

Rapid industrialization had contributed to the many poor, filthy and foul-smelling city neighborhoods that encourage a spread of disease and epidemics by improving the housing, sanitation and cleanliness of these existing areas.

Levels of disease were seen to form, but there was a second outbreak of cholera in 1848 and this was followed shortly by a second outbreak in 1853.

The second outbreak brought forward other physicians, such as jon snow, who put forward his theory that cholera was transmitted by bad air, but instead was spread through water.

His theory was mostly ignored by the people.

However, when another outbreak occurred, he reported his evidence that he had collected from an area of london around broad street soho.

He could prove that one particular water pump in broad street was linked to the deaths of those in the area.

It was this evidence it caught.

The attention of local officials who began to take his work seriously so they removed the handle of the pump by which point the epidemic was slowing down.


However, it was proven that a sewer had been leaking near the well where the water was drawn.

Snow was not able to convince all physicians and it wasn't until 1858, during the great stink of summer of 1858, that forced parliament to shut that londonist truly made changes to the city's sanitation crisis.

The thames was the main sewage system, which would have only made the situation.


Government responded by sanctioning a whole new sewer system for london.

The new sewers made an enormous difference to the health of londoners.

This system is still being used today and the river thames was changed forever.

After these improvements, the chief engineer created a solution that channeled the waste through miles of street sewers into a series of main intercepting sewers which slowly transported it far enough downstream, so that it could be pumped into the tidal thames from where it would be swept out.

To sea narrowboard pipes had been used previously at one stage, but they couldn't cope with the volume of waste, and so the engineer responsible for the new system used wide egg-shaped, brick walls, tunnels.

The new sewer system was opened in 1865, although cholera did return for a final time.

It was confined to only a small part of london where those living in the slums had been drinking.

The contaminated water in east london that had not yet been connected to the new system.

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How many people died in the cholera epidemic in London? ›

In 1853–1854, the epidemic in London claimed over 10,000 lives, and there were 23,000 deaths for all of Great Britain. This pandemic was considered to have the highest fatalities of the 19th-century epidemics.

How did the cholera epidemic start in London? ›

Human waste piled up in courtyards and overflowed from basement cesspits into the gutters and waterways. In such conditions diseases were inevitable. Outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and scarlet fever were common, but the arrival of cholera led to new investigation into sanitation and the causes of disease.

How many people died of cholera in London in 1866? ›

In June 1866, a localized epidemic in the East End of London claimed 5,596 lives, just as the city was completing construction of its major sewage and water treatment systems; the East End section was not quite complete.

What ended the 1854 cholera epidemic? ›

1854: Physician John Snow convinces a London local council to remove the handle from a pump in Soho. A deadly cholera epidemic in the neighborhood comes to an end immediately, though perhaps serendipitously. Snow maps the outbreak to prove his point ... and launches modern epidemiology.

What was the deadliest pandemic in history? ›

Black Death: 75-200M (1334-1353)

How many Americans died from cholera? ›

It is believed more than 150,000 Americans died during the two pandemics between 1832 and 1849. In 1851, a ship coming from Cuba carried the disease to Gran Canaria. It is considered that more than 6,000 people died in the island during summer, out of a population of 58,000.

Why is cholera called the Blue death? ›

Cholera has been nicknamed the "blue death" because a person's skin may turn bluish-gray from extreme loss of fluids.

Is cholera still around today? ›

Modern sewage and water treatment have virtually eliminated cholera in industrialized countries. But cholera still exists in Africa, Southeast Asia and Haiti.

Who solved the cholera crisis in London? ›

But it was not until 1854 that the physician John Snow (1813-1858) made a major contribution to fighting cholera when he was able to demonstrate a link between cholera and the contaminated drinking water through his pioneering studies. John Snow was born in York on 15 March 1813.

How did they treat cholera in the 1800s? ›

Treatment of the first stage (Premonitory) of cholera consisted of confining the victim to bed and the taking of some warmed mild aromatic drink such as spearmint, chamomile, or warm camphor julep. Once the individual had commenced to perspire, calomel, camphor, magnesia, and pure castor oil was administered.

What was the largest cholera outbreak in history? ›

On October 20, 2010, the first outbreak of cholera ever confirmed in Haiti was recognized 10 months after the catastrophic earthquake that killed over 200,000 people and displaced over 1 million. At the time, this cholera outbreak was the worst in history, with over 820,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths.

How did John Snow stop cholera? ›

Snow concluded that access to uncontaminated water prevented them from cholera infection, while users of the Broad Street pump became infected. He persuaded the doubtful civic authorities to remove the handle from the Broad Street pump, and the already subsiding epidemic disappeared within a few days.

What does cholera smell like? ›

Cholera. Cholera is caused by infectious bacteria, Vibrio cholerae. This acute intestinal infection causes profuse watery diarrhoea, vomiting and rapid dehydration. The faeces of patients with cholera are referred to as 'rice-water stools' and have a characteristic sweetish odour.

What did they do to stop cholera? ›

A multifaceted approach is key to control cholera, and to reduce deaths. A combination of surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, social mobilisation, treatment, and oral cholera vaccines are used.

Is cholera contagious person to person? ›

The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. The infection is not likely to spread directly from one person to another; therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk factor for becoming ill.

What are the 3 plagues? ›

  • Bubonic plague: The incubation period of bubonic plague is usually 2 to 8 days. ...
  • Septicemic plague: The incubation period of septicemic plague is poorly defined but likely occurs within days of exposure. ...
  • Pneumonic plague: The incubation period of pneumonic plague is usually just 1 to 3 days.

What pandemic was before COVID? ›

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is frequently compared with the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. The destruction caused by that pandemic a century ago may sound familiar. Yet, direct comparisons of the 1918 flu pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic may not be completely fair, according to one scientist.

What was America's worst pandemic? ›

Death Spikes

In October 1918 alone, an estimated 195,000 Americans died of the virus. According to the CDC, by February 1919, cases began to drop, but the flu began coming back seasonally. The US has gone through several spikes in deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why is there no cholera in the US? ›

Cholera, caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is very rare in the U.S. Cholera was common domestically in the 1800s but water-related spread has been eliminated by modern water and sewage treatment systems. Nearly all cholera cases reported in U.S. are acquired during international travel.

What's the worst disease in history? ›

1. The Black Death: Bubonic Plague. The Black Death ravaged most of Europe and the Mediterranean from 1346 until 1353. Over 50 million people died, more than 60% of Europe's entire population at the time.

What was the first cure for cholera? ›

Early killed OCV development

The first cholera vaccine was developed by Ferran in 1885 and used in mass vaccination campaigns in Spain [Pollitzer and Burrows, 1955; Mukerjee, 1963].

Is cholera killed by boiling water? ›

Cholera is a serious disease but can be prevented. Washing hands with soap and water before preparing, serving and eating food and after using the latrine kills the germs and prevents the spread of Cholera. Boiling or chlorinating drinking water kills Cholera germs and prevents the spread of Cholera.

What animal did cholera come from? ›

There are no known animal hosts for Vibrio cholerae, however, the bacteria attach themselves easily to the chitin-containing shells of crabs, shrimps, and other shellfish, which can be a source for human infections when eaten raw or undercooked.

Is There A vaccine for cholera? ›

Vaxchora (lyophilized CVD 103-HgR) is a single-dose, oral vaccine FDA-approved in the United States for use in people aged 2–64 who are traveling to an area of active cholera transmission. Vaxchora should be taken at least 10 days before travel to an area of active cholera transmission.

How common is cholera in the United States? ›

Cases of cholera are rare in the United States, with the majority being acquired while visiting endemic countries. Endemic countries include those within Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and are commonly associated with poor sanitation, untreated wastewater, overcrowding, and poverty.

What are the 3 stages of cholera? ›

 A typical case of cholera shows 3 stages :
  • Stage of evacuation.
  • 2 Stage of collapse.
  • Stage of collapse.
  • Stage of recovery.

How did baby Lewis get cholera? ›

Thereafter she emptied the pails in the cesspool opening in front of her house. Likely baby Lewis had Vibrio cholerae which contaminated the napkin used to absorb diarrhea.

Is cholera airborne? ›

How is cholera spread? The cholera bacteria is passed through feces (poop). It is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated by the feces (poop) of an infected person.

How is cholera transmitted? ›

A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person.

Who brought cholera to America? ›

As the second pandemic of cholera spread be- tween 1829 and 1850, the disease reached the coast of the Americas for the first time. Ships arriving from Europe introduced the infection in 1832, despite having been quarantined at Gross Island, near Quebec, in Canada.

When was the cholera epidemic in the USA? ›

The cholera experience is often considered as separate epidemics-1832, 1849, 1866, and the late 1870s.

When was the cholera outbreak in America? ›

1832-1866: Cholera in three waves

The United States had three serious waves of cholera, an infection of the intestines, between 1832 and 1866. The pandemic began in India and swiftly spread across the globe through trade routes.

What was the death rate of cholera in the 1800s? ›

The first cases of cholera appeared in Forio d'Ischia in June 1837. The epidemic then peaked in July. It is estimated that approximately 316 people died from cholera in Forio out of a population of 5500. This resulted in a cholera-specific mortality rate of 57.5/1000 population.

How many people died from cholera in 1854? ›

This outbreak, which killed 616 people, is best known for the physician John Snow's study of its causes and his hypothesis that germ-contaminated water was the source of cholera, rather than particles in the air (referred to as "miasma").

How many deaths were there from cholera in 1854? ›

The 623 cholera deaths used in the current analysis were determined from the 'plan of deaths' in conjunction with the Weekly Returns and the Appendix of the Report into the outbreak (see above and Shiode et al., 2015).

Is there a treatment for cholera? ›

Oral or intravenous hydration is the primary treatment for cholera. In conjunction with hydration, treatment with antibiotics is recommended for severely ill patients. It is also recommended for patients who have severe or some dehydration and continue to pass a large volume of stool during rehydration treatment.

Who discovered the bacteria that causes cholera? ›

The germ responsible for cholera was discovered twice: first by the Italian physician Filippo Pacini during an outbreak in Florence, Italy, in 1854, and then independently by Robert Koch in India in 1883, thus favoring the germ theory over the miasma theory of disease.

Why did John Snow remove the pump? ›

Snow presented his findings to community leaders, and the pump handle was removed on September 8, 1854. Removal of the handle prevented additional cholera deaths, supporting Snow's theory that cholera was a waterborne, contagious disease.

Why is cholera stool white? ›

The intestinal barrier disruption and fluid loss are what lead to the severe watery diarrhea that “often has a pale, milky appearance that resembles water in which rice has been rinsed.” There are a few different strains of Vibrio cholerae and the severity of the disease differs from strain to strain.

Is cholera painful? ›

Frequent Symptoms

Often the very first sign of cholera is painless diarrhea that occurs within a day or so of becoming infected. The diarrhea is extremely watery and has a sort of pale murkiness that resembles water after rinsing rice, which is what gives it its nickname "rice water stool."

What was The Great Stink of 1958? ›

The Great Stink was an event in Central London during July and August 1858 in which the hot weather exacerbated the smell of untreated human waste and industrial effluent that was present on the banks of the River Thames.

What has helped eliminate cholera in the US? ›

Typically, cholera response measures for prevention and control have included a mix of WASH interventions, Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) and, in some cases, prophylactic antibiotics.

What foods should you avoid during cholera? ›

Avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish, including ceviche. Make sure all vegetables are cooked avoid salads. Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors.

Is dysentery the same as cholera? ›

Cholera is a bacterial infection that causes watery diarrhea. Acute watery diarrhea is most often a symptom of an intestinal infection, which can be caused by different bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Dysentery is a bacterial or parasitic infection that causes bloody diarrhea and other symptoms.

Is cholera spread by mosquitoes? ›

Cholera is often carried and spread by small crustaceans called copepods. Malaria is spread through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes infected with the Plasmodium parasite. Plague is transmitted through fleas—usually living on rodents—that carry the bacteria.

Do dogs get cholera? ›

What animals get cholera? Most animals do not develop ill- ness from cholera. Dogs may become infected if exposed to a very large number of the Vibrio cholerae bacte- ria in either food or water. Outbreaks have been reported in bison, cattle and dogs.

What is the diet of cholera? ›

Cholera drives huge amounts of fluids out of the body. It is imperative to make up for the loss of fluid and avoid dehydration. All natural fluids and naturally fluid-loaded fruits and veggies must be included in the diet. Make sure that the food is super easy to digest, light on stomach and devoid of any oil or spice.

How many Londoners died in a span of 30 years of cholera? ›

During the decades between 1830s and the 1860s, cholera cast a wide net of death and destruction over London. Within the span of thirty years, it ravaged communities, created widespread panic, and was responsible for nearly forty thousand deaths.

How many people died from cholera in Britain 1832? ›

Cholera reached the UK in 1832 having travelled from Russia and across Europe. Known as 'King Cholera' it claimed over 50,000 lives, 402 of them in Sheffield. The authorities struggled to cope with the outbreak.

What was the 1st cholera epidemic that killed 32000 people in London called? ›

Broad Street outbreak. On 31 August 1854, after several other outbreaks had occurred elsewhere in the city, a major outbreak of cholera occurred in Soho. Snow later called it "the most terrible outbreak of cholera which ever occurred in this kingdom."

How did they treat cholera in the 1800's? ›

Treatment of the first stage (Premonitory) of cholera consisted of confining the victim to bed and the taking of some warmed mild aromatic drink such as spearmint, chamomile, or warm camphor julep. Once the individual had commenced to perspire, calomel, camphor, magnesia, and pure castor oil was administered.

Who found the cure for cholera? ›

But it was not until 1854 that the physician John Snow (1813-1858) made a major contribution to fighting cholera when he was able to demonstrate a link between cholera and the contaminated drinking water through his pioneering studies. John Snow was born in York on 15 March 1813.

How did pioneers treat cholera? ›

Emigrants treated the sick with pain medications such as camphor, the oil of the Asian camphor tree, and laudanum, a bitter-tasting, addictive tincture made from opium, but victims often died within a matter of hours— healthy in the morning and dead by noon.

Was cholera always fatal? ›

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection causing profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, circulatory collapse and shock. Many infections are associated with milder diarrhea or have no symptoms at all. If left untreated, 25-50% of severe cholera cases can be fatal. Who gets cholera?

When was the last cholera outbreak in the United States? ›

Although cholera outbreaks have not occurred in the U.S. in the last 100 years, the disease remains a significant global health concern in many countries around the world. The world is now in its 7th cholera pandemic, which started in 1961. The map below shows where cholera outbreaks occurred or were ongoing in 2022.

What was the most likely cause of death from cholera? ›

In the most severe cases, the rapid loss of large amounts of fluids and electrolytes can lead to death within hours. In less extreme situations, people who don't receive treatment can die of dehydration and shock hours to days after cholera symptoms first appear.

How many Americans died from cholera in the 19th century? ›

That year, cholera was transmitted along the California, Mormon and Oregon Trails as 6,000 to 12,000 are believed to have died on their way to the California Gold Rush, Utah and Oregon in the cholera years of 1849–1855. It is believed more than 150,000 Americans died during the two pandemics between 1832 and 1849.

What did John Snow do to stop cholera? ›

Snow concluded that access to uncontaminated water prevented them from cholera infection, while users of the Broad Street pump became infected. He persuaded the doubtful civic authorities to remove the handle from the Broad Street pump, and the already subsiding epidemic disappeared within a few days.

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