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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Cholera

The tradition of clapping dates back to 1473 and the original outbreak of cholera. Slapping your hands together was a signal to those around that you were infected. Eventually it became a token of applause.

In 1832 a cholera epidemic, which had been devastating Europe, crossed the Atlantic and reached Chicago. Such was the concern in Britain that the government declared March 21, 1832 to be a day of fasting and penitence.

The first silver English florin was issued in 1849. It upset many God fearing people as it didn't carry the traditional inscriptions “DG” (”Dei Gratia”-“By God’s grace”), or “ED” (“Fidei Defensor”- “Defender of the Faith”). A cholera epidemic was blamed on the evil influence of the florin and it had to be withdrawn.

In 1854 London witnessed a severe outbreak of cholera. The area around Soho was particularly struck and, in a matter of weeks, over five hundred people had died. At the time doctors believed that cholera was caused by bad air or pollution, which was common in such an overpopulated place. A young physician, John Snow, began to investigate the area around one particular street, talking to people and drawing a map to trace his conversations. He became quickly convinced that the water pump on Broad Street was the source of the problem. He persuaded the local authorities to remove the handle from the pump and the epidemic came to an end. Further investigations revealed that human waste had seeped into the water supply.

In 1883 the German physician and pioneering microbiologist Robert Koch travelled to India to investigate the cause of cholera, which was reaching epidemic levels there.  He succeeded in isolating Vibrio cholerae, the cholera microbe that caused the disease and found that the bacillus was transmitted to human beings primarily through water.

In 1892 a cholera epidemic arrived in America having been transmitted by an infection carried aboard the Hamburg-American Line's Moravia. This outbreak forced a twenty-day quarantine of New York City.

The World Health Organisation notes that cholera is not just a treatable disease – it is a preventable one. The most likely occurrences happen in places of urban poverty and refugee camps, where sanitation is inadequate and fresh drinking water in short supply. In a cholera outbreak, as well as offering treatment, agencies seek to make clean water available as soon as possible.

A, B, or AB blood types are less likely to contract cholera—A and B antigens may prevent cholera toxins from firmly binding to cells.

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