1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cholera
CHOLERA (from the Gr. χολή, bile, and ῥέειν, to flow), the name given to two distinct forms of disease, simple cholera and malignant cholera. Although essentially different both as to their causation and their pathological relationships, these two diseases may in individual cases present many symptoms of mutual resemblance.
Simple Cholera (synonyms, Cholera Europaea, British Cholera, Summer or Autumnal Cholera) is the cholera of ancient medical writers, as is apparent from the accurate description of the disease given by Hippocrates, Celsus and Aretaeus. Its occurrence in an epidemic form was noticed by various physicians in the 16th century, and an admirable account of the disease was subsequently given by Thomas Sydenham in 1669–1672. This disease is sometimes called Cholera Nostras, the word nostras, which is good Latin and used by Cicero, meaning “belonging to our country.” The relations between it and Asiatic cholera (see below) are obscure. Clinically they may exactly resemble each other, and bacteriology has not been able to draw an absolute line between them. The real difference is epidemiological, cholera nostras having no epidemic significance.
The chief symptoms in well-marked cases are vomiting and purging occurring either together or alternately. The seizure is usually sudden and violent. The contents of the stomach are first ejected, and this is followed by severe retching and vomiting of thin fluid of bilious appearance and bitter taste. The diarrhoea which accompanies or succeeds the vomiting, and is likewise of bilious character, is attended with severe griping abdominal pain, while cramps affecting the legs or arms greatly intensify the suffering. The effect upon the system is rapid and alarming, a few hours of such an attack sufficing to reduce the strongest person to a state of extreme prostration. The surface of the body becomes cold, the pulse weak, the voice husky, and the whole symptoms may resemble in a striking manner those of malignant cholera, to be subsequently described. In unfavourable cases, particularly where the disorder is epidemic, death may result within forty-eight hours. Generally, however, the attack is arrested and recovery soon follows, although there may remain for a considerable time a degree of irritability of the alimentary canal, rendering necessary the utmost care in regard to diet.
Attacks of this kind are of frequent occurrence in summer and autumn in almost all countries. They appear specially liable to occur when cold and damp alternate with heat. Occasionally the disorder prevails so extensively as to constitute an epidemic. The exciting causes of an attack are in many cases errors in diet, particularly the use of unripe fruit and new vegetables, and the excessive drinking of cold liquids during perspiration. Outbreaks of this disorder in a household or community can sometimes be traced to the use of impure water, or to noxious emanations from the sewers.
In the treatment, vomiting should be encouraged so long as it shows the presence of undigested food, after which opiates ought to be administered. Small opium pills, or Dover’s powder, or the aromatic powder of chalk with opium, are likely to be retained in the stomach, and will generally succeed in allaying the pain and diarrhoea, while ice and effervescing drinks serve to quench the thirst and subdue the sickness. In aggravated cases where medicines are rejected, enemata of starch and laudanum, or the hypodermic injection of morphia, ought to be resorted to. Counter-irritation by mustard or turpentine over the abdomen is always of use, as is also friction with the hands where cramps are present. When sinking threatens, brandy and ammonia will be called for. During convalescence the food should be in the form of milk and farinaceous diet, or light soups, and all indigestible articles must be carefully avoided.
In the treatment of this disease as it affects young children (Cholera Infantum), most reliance is to be placed on the administration of chalk and the use of starch enemata. In their case opium in any form cannot be safely employed.
Malignant Cholera (synonyms, Asiatic Cholera, Indian Cholera, Epidemic Cholera, Algide Cholera) is one of the most severe and fatal diseases. In describing the symptoms it is customary to divide them into three stages, but it must be noted that these do not always present themselves in so distinct a form as to be capable of separate recognition. The first or premonitory stage consists in the occurrence of diarrhoea. Frequently of mild and painless character, and coming on after some error in diet, this symptom is apt to be disregarded. The discharges from the bowels are similar to those of ordinary summer cholera, which the attack closely resembles. There is, however, at first the absence of vomiting. This diarrhoea generally lasts for two or three days, and then if it does not gradually subside either may pass into the more severe phenomena characteristic of the second stage of cholera, or on the other hand may itself prove fatal.
The second stage is termed the stage of collapse or the algide or asphyxial stage. As above mentioned, this is often preceded by the premonitory diarrhoea, but not infrequently the phenomena attendant upon this stage are the first to manifest themselves. They come on often suddenly in the night with diarrhoea of the most violent character, the matters discharged being of whey-like appearance, and commonly termed the “rice-water” evacuations. They contain large quantities of disintegrated epithelium from the mucous membrane of the intestines. The discharge, which is at first unattended with pain, is soon succeeded by copious vomiting of matters similar to those passed from the bowels, accompanied with severe pain at the pit of the stomach, and with intense thirst. The symptoms now advance with rapidity. Cramps of the legs, feet, and muscles of the abdomen come on and occasion great agony, while the signs of collapse make their appearance. The surface of the body becomes cold and assumes a blue or purple hue, the skin is dry, sodden and wrinkled, indicating the intense draining away of the fluids of the body, the features are pinched and the eyes deeply sunken, the pulse at the wrist is imperceptible, and the voice is reduced to a hoarse whisper (the vox cholerica). There is complete suppression of the urine.
In this condition death often takes place in less than one day, but in epidemics cases are frequently observed where the collapse is so sudden and complete as to prove fatal in one or two hours even without any great amount of previous purging or vomiting. In most instances the mental faculties are comparatively unaffected, although in the later stages there is in general more or less apathy.
Reaction, however, may take place, and this constitutes the third stage. It consists in the arrest of the alarming symptoms characterizing the second stage, and the gradual but evident improvement in the patient’s condition. The pulse returns, the surface assumes a natural hue, and the bodily heat is restored. Before long the vomiting ceases, and although diarrhoea may continue for a time, it is not of a very severe character and soon subsides, as do also the cramps. The urine may remain suppressed for some time, and on returning is often found to be albuminous. Even in this stage, however, the danger is not past, for relapses sometimes occur which speedily prove fatal, while again the reaction may be of imperfect character, and there may succeed an exhausting fever (the so-called typhoid stage of cholera) which may greatly retard recovery, and under which the patient may sink at a period even as late as two or three weeks from the commencement of the illness.
Many other complications are apt to arise during the progress of convalescence from cholera, such as diphtheritic and local inflammatory affections, all of which are attended with grave danger.
When the attack of cholera is of milder character in all its stages than that above described, it has been named Cholerine, but the term is an arbitrary one and the disease is essentially cholera.
The bodies of persons dying of cholera are found to remain long warm, and the temperature may even rise after death. Peculiar muscular contractions have been observed to take place after death, so that the position of the limbs may become altered. The soft textures of the body are found to be dry and hard, and the muscles of a dark brown appearance. The blood is of dark colour and tarry consistence. The upper portion of the small intestines is generally found distended with the rice-water discharges, the mucous membrane is swollen, and there is a remarkable loss of its natural epithelium. The kidneys are usually in a state of acute congestion. This form of cholera belongs originally to Asia, more particularly to India, where, as well as in the Indian archipelago, epidemics are known to have occurred at various times for several centuries.
Much light has been thrown upon Asiatic cholera by Western experience; and the study of the disease by modern methods has resulted in important additions to our previous knowledge of its nature, causation, mode of dissemination and prevention.
The cause is a micro-organism identified by Koch in 1883 (see Parasitic Diseases). For some years it was called the “comma bacillus,” from its supposed resemblance in shape to a comma, but it was subsequently found to be a vibrio or spirillum, Causation.not a bacillus. The discovery was received with much scepticism in some quarters, and the claim of Koch’s vibrio to be the true cause of cholera was long disputed, but is now universally acknowledged. Few micro-organisms have been more elaborately investigated, but very little is known of its natural history, and its epidemiological behaviour is still surrounded by obscurity. At an important discussion on the subject, held at the International Hygienic Congress in 1894, Professor Gruber of Vienna declared that the deeper investigators went the more difficult the problem became, while M. Elie Metschnikoff of the Pasteur Institute made a similar admission. The difficulty lies chiefly in the variable characters assumed by the organism and the variable effects produced by it. The type reached by cultivation through a few generations may differ so widely from the original in appearance and behaviour as to be hardly recognizable, while, on the other hand, of two organisms apparently indistinguishable one may be innocuous and the other give rise to the most violent cholera. This variability offers a possible explanation of the frequent failure to trace the origin of epidemic outbreaks in isolated places. It is commonly assumed that the micro-organism is of a specific character, and always introduced from without, when cholera appears in countries or places where it is not endemic. In some cases such introduction can be proved, and in others it can be inferred with a high degree of probability, but sometimes it is impossible to trace the origin to any possible channel of communication. A remarkable case of this kind occurred at the Nietleben lunatic asylum near Halle, in 1893, in the shape of a sudden, explosive and isolated outbreak of true Asiatic cholera. It was entirely confined to the institution, and the peculiar circumstances enabled a very exact investigation to be made. The facts led Professor Arndt, of Greifswald, to propound a novel and interesting theory. No cholera existed in the surrounding district and no introduction could be traced, but for several months in the previous autumn diarrhoea had prevailed in the asylum. The sewage from the establishment was disposed of on a farm, and the effluent passed into the river Saale above the intake of the water-supply for the asylum. Thus a circulation of morbid material through the persons of the inmates was established. Dr Arndt’s theory was that by virtue of this circulation cholera was gradually developed from previously existing intestinal disease of an allied but milder type. The outbreak occurred in winter, and coincided with the freezing of the filter-beds at the waterworks. The theory is worth notice, because a similar relation between the drainage and the water-supply frequently exists in places severely attacked by cholera, and it has repeatedly been observed that the latter is preceded by the prevalence of a milder form of intestinal disease. The inference is not that cholera can be developed de novo, but that the type is unstable, and that a virulent form may be evolved under favourable conditions from another so mild as to be unrecognized, and consequently undetected in its origin or introduction. This is quite in keeping with the observed variability of the micro-organism, and with the trend of modern research with regard to the relations between other pathogenic germs and the multifarious gradations of type assumed by other zymotic diseases. The same thing has been suggested of diphtheria.
Cholera is endemic in the East over a wide area, ranging from Bombay to southern China, but its chief home is British India. It principally affects the alluvial soil near the mouths of the great rivers, and more particularly the deltaEpidemicity. of the Ganges. Lower Bengal is pre-eminently the standing focus and centre of diffusion. In some years it is quiescent, though never absent; in others it becomes diffused, for reasons of which nothing is known, and its diffusive activity varies greatly from equally inscrutable causes. At irregular intervals this property becomes so heightened that the disease passes its natural boundaries and is carried east, north and west, it may be to Europe or beyond to the American continent. We must assume that the micro-organism, like those of other epidemic diseases, acquires greater vitality and toxic energy, or greater power of reproduction at some times than at others, but the conditions that govern this behaviour are quite unknown, though no problem has a more important bearing on public health. Bacteriology, as already intimated, has thrown no light upon it, nor has meteorology. Some results of modern research, indeed, tend to assign increasing importance to the relations between surface soil and certain micro-organisms, and suggest that changes in the level of the subsoil water, to which Professor Max von Pettenkoffer long ago drew attention, may be a dominant factor in determining the latency or activity of pathogenic germs. But this is largely a matter of conjecture, and, so far as cholera is concerned, the conditions which turn an endemic into an epidemic disease must be admitted to be still unknown.
On the other hand, the mode of dissemination is now well understood. Diffusion takes place along the lines of human intercourse. The poison is carried chiefly by infected persons moving from place to place; but soiled clothes, rags and other articles that have come into contact with persons suffering from the disease may be the means of conveyance to a distance. There is no reason to suppose that it is air-borne, or that atmospheric influences have anything to do with its spread, except in so far as meteorological conditions may be favourable to the growth and activity of the micro-organisms. Beyond all doubt, the great manufactory of the poison is the human body, and the discharges from it are the great source of contagion. They may infect the ground, the water, or the immediate surroundings of the patient, and so pass from hand to hand, the poison finding entrance into the bodies of the healthy by means of food and drink which have become contaminated in various ways. Flies which feed upon excreta and other foul matters may be carriers of contagion. Of all the means of local dissemination, contaminated water is by far the most important, because it affects the greatest number of people, and this is particularly the case in places which have a public water-supply. A single contaminated source may expose the entire population to danger. All severe outbreaks of an explosive character are due to this cause. It is also possible that the cholera poison multiplies rapidly in water under favourable conditions, and that a reservoir, for instance, may form a sort of forcing-bed. But it would be a mistake to regard cholera as purely a water-borne disease, even locally. It may infect the soil in localities which have a perfectly pure water-supply, but have defective drainage or no drainage at all, and then it will be found more difficult to get rid of, though less formidable in its effects, than when the water alone is the source of mischief. In all these respects it has a great affinity to enteric fever. With regard to locality, no situation can be said to be free from attack if the disease is introduced and the sanitary conditions are bad; but, speaking generally, low-lying places on alluvial soil near rivers are more liable than those standing high or on a rocky foundation. Of meteorological conditions it can only be said with certainty that a high temperature favours the development of cholera, though a low one does not prevent it. In temperate climates the summer months, and particularly August and September, are the season of its greatest activity.
Cholera spreads westwards from India by two routes—(1) by sea to the shores of the Red Sea, Egypt and the Mediterranean; and (2) by land to northern India and Afghanistan, thence to Persia and central Asia, and so to Russia. In Western diffusion.the great invasions of Europe during the 19th century it sometimes followed one route and sometimes the other. It was not till 1817 that the attention of European physicians was specially directed to the disease by the outbreak of a violent epidemic of cholera at Jessore in Bengal. This was followed by its rapid spread over a large portion of British India, where it caused immense destruction of life both among natives and Europeans. During the next three years cholera continued to rage all over India, as well as in Ceylon and others of the Indian islands. The disease now began to spread over a wider extent than hitherto, invading China on the east and Persia on the west. In 1823 it had extended into Asia Minor and Russia in Asia, and it continued to advance steadily though slowly westwards, while at the same time fresh epidemics were appearing at intervals in India. From this period up till 1830 no great extension of cholera took place, but in the latter year it reappeared in Persia and along the shores of the Caspian Sea, and thence entered Russia in Europe. Despite the strictest sanitary precautions, the disease spread rapidly through that whole empire, causing great mortality and exciting consternation everywhere. It ravaged the northern and central parts of Europe, and spread onwards to England, appearing in Sunderland in October 1831, and in London in January 1832, during which year it continued to prevail in most of the cities and large towns of Great Britain and Ireland. The disease subsequently extended into France, Spain and Italy, and crossing the Atlantic spread through North and Central America. It had previously prevailed in Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and the Nile district, and in 1835 it was general throughout North Africa. Up till 1837 cholera continued to break out in various parts of the continent of Europe, after which this epidemic disappeared, having thus within twenty years visited a large portion of the world.
About the year 1841 another great epidemic of cholera appeared in India and China, and soon began to extend in the direction traversed by the former, but involving a still wider area. It entered Europe again in 1847, and spread through Russia and Germany on to England, and thence to France, whence it passed to America, and subsequently appeared in the West Indies. This epidemic appears to have been even more deadly than the former, especially as regards Great Britain and France. A third great outbreak of cholera took place in the East in 1850, entering Europe in 1853. During the two succeeding years it prevailed extensively throughout the continent, and fell with severity on the armies engaged in the Crimean War. Although widely prevalent in Great Britain and Ireland it was less destructive than former epidemics. It was specially severe throughout both North and South America. A fourth epidemic visited Europe again in 1865–1866, but was on the whole less extensive and destructive than its predecessors.
By some writers the epidemic of 1853 is regarded as a recrudescence of that of 1847. The earlier ones followed the land route by way of Afghanistan and Persia, and took several years to reach Europe. That of 1865 travelled more rapidly, being carried from Bombay by sea to Mecca, from there to Suez and Alexandria, and then on to various Mediterranean ports. Within the year it had not only spread extensively in Europe, but had reached the West Indies. In 1866 it invaded England and the United States, but during the following year it died down in the West. The subsequent history of cholera in Europe may be stated chronologically.
1860–1874.—This invasion was traced to the great gathering of pilgrims at Hardwar on the Upper Ganges in the month of April 1867. From there the returning pilgrims carried it to the Punjab, Kashmir and Afghanistan, whence it spread to Persia and the Caspian, but it did not reach Russia until 1869. During the next four years a number of outbreaks occurred in central Europe, and notably one at Munich in the winter of 1873. The irregular character of these epidemics suggests that they were rather survivals from the pandemic wave of 1867 than fresh importations, but there is no doubt that cholera was carried overland into Russia in the manner described.
1883–1887.—This visitation, again, came by the Mediterranean. In 1883 a severe outbreak occurred in Egypt, causing a mortality of above 25,000. Its origin remained unknown. During this epidemic Koch discovered the comma bacillus. The following year cholera appeared at Toulon. It was said to have been brought in a troopship from Saigon in Cochin-China, but it may have been connected with the Egyptian epidemic. A severe outbreak followed and reached Italy, nearly 8000 persons dying in Naples alone. In 1885 the south of France, Italy, Sicily and Spain all suffered, especially the last, where nearly 120,000 deaths occurred. Portugal escaped, and the authorities there attributed their good fortune to the institution of a military cordon, in which they have had implicit confidence ever since. In 1886 the same countries suffered again, and also Austria-Hungary. From Italy the disease was carried to South America, and even travelled as far as Chile, where it had previously been unknown. In 1887 it still lingered in the Mediterranean, causing great mortality in Messina especially. According to Dr A. J. Wall, this epidemic cost 250,000 lives in Europe and at least 50,000 in America. A particular interest attaches to it in the fact that a localized revival of the disease was caused in Spain in 1890 by the disturbance of the graves of some of the victims who had died of cholera four years previously.
1892–1895.—This great invasion reverted again to the old overland route, but the march of the disease was of unprecedented rapidity. Within less than five months it travelled from the North-West Provinces of India to St Petersburg, and probably to Hamburg, and thence in a few days to England and the United States. This speed, in such striking contrast to the slow advance of former occasions, was attributed, and no doubt rightly, to improved steam transit, and particularly the Transcaspian railway. The progress of the disease was traced from place to place, and almost from day to day, with great precision, showing how it moves along the chief highways and is obviously carried by man. The main facts are as follows:—Cholera was extensively and severely prevalent in India in 1891, causing 601,603 deaths, the highest mortality since 1877. In March 1892 it broke out at the Hardwar fair, a day or two before the pilgrims dispersed; on the 19th of April it was at Kabul, on the 1st of May at Herat, and on the 26th of May at Meshed. From Meshed it moved in three directions—due west to Teheran in Persia, north-east by the Transcaspian railway to Samarkand in Central Asia, and north-west by the same line in the opposite direction to Uzun-ada on the Caspian Sea. It reached Uzun-ada on the 6th of June; crossed to Baku, June 18th; Astrakhan, June 24th; then up the Volga to Nizhniy-Novgorod, arriving at Moscow and St Petersburg early in August. The part played by steam transit is clear from the fact that the disease took no longer to travel all the way from Meshed to St Petersburg by rail and steamboat than to traverse the short distance from Meshed to Teheran by road. On the 16th of August cases began to occur in Hamburg; on the 19th of August a fireman was taken ill at Grangemouth in Scotland, where he had arrived the day before from Hamburg; and on the 31st of August a vessel reached New York from the same port with cholera on board. On the 8th of September the disease appeared in Galicia, having moved somewhat slowly westwards across Russia into Poland, and on the 26th of September it was in Budapest. Holland and Servia were also attacked, while isolated cases were carried to Norway, Denmark and Italy. Meanwhile two entirely separate epidemics were in progress elsewhere. The first was confined to Arabia and the Somali coast of Africa, and was connected with the remains of an outbreak in Syria and Arabia in 1890–1891. The second arose mysteriously in France about the time when the overland invasion started from India. The first known case occurred in the prison at Nanterre, near Paris, on the 31st of March. Paris was affected in April, and Havre in July. The origin of this outbreak, which was of a much less violent character than that which came simultaneously by way of Russia, was never ascertained. Its activity was confined to France, particularly in the neighbourhood of Paris, together with Belgium and Holland, which was placed between two fires, but escaped with but little mortality. The number of persons killed by cholera in 1892, outside of India, was reckoned at 378,449, and the vast majority of those died within six months. The countries which suffered most severely were as follows:—European Russia, 151,626; Caucasus, 69,423; Central Asian Russia, 31,804; Siberia, 15,037—total for Russian empire, 267,890; Persia, 63,982; Somaliland, 10,000; Afghanistan, 7,000; Germany, 9563; France, 4550; Hungary, 1255; Belgium, 961. Curiously enough, the south of Europe, which had been the scene of the previous epidemic visitation, escaped. The disease was of the most virulent character. In European Russia the mortality was 45.8% of the cases, the highest rate ever known in that country; in Germany it was 51.3%; and in Austria-Hungary, 57.5%. Of all the localities attacked, the case of Hamburg was the most remarkable. The presence of cholera was first suspected on the 16th of August, when two cases occurred, but it was not officially declared until the 23rd of August. By that time the daily number of victims had already risen to some hundreds, while the experts and authorities were making up their minds whether they had cholera to deal with or not. Their decision eventually came too late and was superfluous, for by the 27th of August the people were being stricken down at the rate of 1000 a day. This rate was maintained for four days, after which the vehemence of the pestilence began to abate. It gradually declined, and ceased on the 14th of November. During those three months 16,956 persons were attacked and 8605 died, the majority within the space of a few weeks. The town, ordinarily one of the gayest places of business and pleasure on the continent, became a city of the dead. Thousands of persons fled, carrying the disease into all parts of Germany; the rest shut themselves indoors; the shops were closed, the trams ceased to run, the hotels and restaurants were deserted, and few vehicles or pedestrians were seen in the streets. At the cemetery, which lies about 10 m. from the town, some hundreds of men were engaged day and night digging long trenches to hold double rows of coffins, while the funerals formed an almost continuous procession along the roads; even so the victims could not be buried fast enough, and their bodies lay for days in sheds hastily run up as mortuaries. Hamburg had been attacked by cholera on fourteen previous occasions, beginning with 1831, but the mortality had never approached that of 1892; in the worst year, which was 1832, there were only 3687 cases and 1765 deaths. The disease was believed to have been introduced by Jewish emigrants passing through on their way from Russia, but the importation could not be traced. The Jews were segregated and kept under careful supervision from the middle of July onwards, and no recognized case occurred among them. The total number of places in Germany in which cholera appeared in 1892 was 269, but it took no serious hold anywhere save in Hamburg. The distribution was chiefly by the waterways, which seem to affect a larger number of places than the railways as carriers of cholera. In Paris 907 persons died, and in Havre 498. Between the 18th of August and the 21st of October 38 cases were imported into England and Scotland through eleven different ports, but the disease nowhere obtained a footing. Seven vessels brought 72 cases to the United States, and 16 others occurred on shore, but there was no further dissemination.
During the winter of 1892–1893 cholera died down, but never wholly ceased in Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and France. With the return of warm weather it showed renewed activity, and prevailed extensively throughout Europe. The recorded mortality for the principal countries was as follows:—Russia (chiefly western provinces), 41,047; Austria-Hungary, 4669; France, 4000; Italy, 3036; Turkey, 1500; Germany, 298; Holland, 376; Belgium, 372; England, 139. Hardly any country escaped altogether; but Europe suffered less than Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia. Cholera broke out at Mecca in June, and owing to the presence of an exceptionally large number of pilgrims caused an appalling mortality. The chief shereef estimated the mortality at 50,000. The pilgrims carried the disease to Asia Minor and Constantinople. In Persia also a recrudescence took place and proved enormously destructive. Dr Barry estimated the mortality at 70,000. At Hamburg, where new waterworks had been installed with sand filtration, only a few sporadic cases occurred until the autumn, when a sudden but limited rush took place, which was traced to a defect in the masonry permitting unfiltered Elbe water to pass into the mains. In England cholera obtained a footing on the Humber at Grimsby, and to a lesser extent at Hull, and isolated attacks occurred in some 50 different localities. Excluding a few ship-borne cases the registered number of attacks was 287, with 135 deaths, of which 9 took place in London. It is interesting to compare the mortality from cholera in England and Wales, and in London, for each year in which it has prevailed since registration began:—
|Year.||England and Wales.||London.|
|Deaths.||Deaths per 10,000
|Deaths.||Deaths per 10,000|
In 1894 no deaths from cholera were recorded in England, but on the continent it still prevailed over a wide area. In Russia over 30,000 persons died of it, in Germany about 500, but the most violent outbreak was in Galicia, where upwards of 8000 deaths were registered. In 1895 it still lingered, chiefly in Russia and Galicia, but with greatly diminished activity. In that year Egypt, Morocco and Japan were attacked, the last severely. The disease then remained in abeyance until the severe epidemic in India in 1900.
The great invasion just described was fruitful in lessons for the prevention of cholera. It proved that the one real and sufficient protection lies in a standing condition of good sanitation backed by an efficient and vigilant Preventionsanitary administration. The experience of Great Britain was a remarkable piece of evidence, but that of Berlin was perhaps even more striking, for Berlin lay in the centre of four fires, in direct and frequent communication with Hamburg, Russia, France and Austria, and without the advantage of a sea frontier. Cholera was repeatedly brought into Berlin, but never obtained a footing, and its successful repression was accomplished without any irksome interference with traffic or the ordinary business of life. The general success of Great Britain and Germany in keeping cholera in check by ordinary sanitary means completed the conversion of all enlightened nations to the policy laid down so far back as 1865 by Sir John Simon, and advocated by Great Britain at a series of international congresses—the policy of abandoning quarantine, which Great Britain did in 1873, and trusting to sanitary measures with medical inspection of persons arriving from infected places. This principle was formally adopted at the international conference ference held at Dresden in 1893, at which a convention was signed by the delegates of Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Montenegro and the Netherlands. Under this instrument the practice is broadly as follows, though the procedure varies a good deal in different countries:—Ships arriving from infected ports are inspected, and if healthy are not detained, but bilge-water and drinking-water are evacuated, and persons landing may be placed under medical supervision without detention; infected ships are detained only for purposes of disinfection; persons suffering from cholera are removed to hospital; other persons landing from an infected ship are placed under medical observation, which may mean detention for five days from the last case, or, as in Great Britain, supervision in their own homes, for which purpose they give their names and places of destination before landing. All goods are freed from restrictions, except rags and articles believed to be contaminated by cholera matters. By land, passengers from infected places are similarly inspected at the frontiers and their luggage “disinfected”—in all cases a pious ceremony of no practical value, involving a short but often a vexatious delay; only those found suffering from cholera can be detained. Each nation is pledged to notify the others of the existence within its own borders of a “foyer” of cholera, by which is meant a focus or centre of infection. The precise interpretation of the term is left to each government, and is treated in a rather elastic fashion by some, but it is generally understood to imply the occurrence of non-imported cases in such a manner as to point to the local presence of infection. The question of guarding Europe generally from the danger of diffusion by pilgrims through the Red Sea was settled at another conference held in Paris in 1894. The provisions agreed on included the inspection of pilgrims at ports of departure, detention of infected or suspected persons, and supervision of pilgrim ships and of pilgrims proceeding overland to Mecca.
The substitution of the procedure above described for the old measures of quarantine and other still more drastic interferences with traffic presupposes the existence of a sanitary service and fairly good sanitary conditions if cholera is to be effectually prevented. No doubt if sanitation were perfect in any place or country, cholera, along with many other diseases, might there be ignored, but sanitation is not perfect anywhere, and therefore it requires to be supplemented by a system of notification with prompt segregation of the sick and destruction of infective material. These things imply a regular organization, and it is to the public health service of Great Britain that the complete mastery of cholera has mainly been due in recent years, and particularly in 1893. Of sanitary conditions the most important is unquestionably the water-supply. So many irrefragable proofs of this fact were given during 1892–1893 that it is no longer necessary to refer to the time-honoured case of the Broad Street pump. At Samarkand three regiments were encamped side by side on a level plain close to a stream of water. The colonel of one regiment took extraordinary precautions, placing a guard over the river, and compelling his men to use boiled water even for washing. Not a single case of cholera occurred in that regiment, while the others, in which only ordinary precautions were taken, lost over 100 men. At Askabad the cholera had almost disappeared, when a banquet was given by the governor in honour of the tsar’s name-day. Of the guests one-half died within twenty-four hours; a military band, which was present, lost 40 men out of 50; and one regiment lost half its men and 9 officers. Within forty-eight hours 1300 persons died out of a total population of about 13,000. The water supply came from a small stream, and just before the banquet a heavy rain-storm had occurred, which swept into the stream all surface refuse from an infected village higher up and some distance from the banks. But the classical example was Hamburg. The water-supply is obtained from the Elbe, which became infected by some means not ascertained. The drainage from the town also runs into the river, and the movement of the tide was sufficient to carry the sewage matter up above the water-intake. The water itself, which is no cleaner than that of the Thames at London Bridge, underwent no purification whatever before distribution. It passed through a couple of ponds, supposed to act as settling tanks, but owing to the growth of the town and increased demand for water it was pumped through too rapidly to permit of any subsidence. Eels and other fish constantly found their way into the houses, while the mains were lined with vegetation and crustacea. The water-pipes of Hamburg had a peculiar and abundant fauna and flora of their own, and the water they delivered was commonly called Fleischbrühe, from its resemblance to thick soup. On the other hand, at Altona, which is continuous with Hamburg, the water was filtered through sand. In all other respects the conditions were identical, yet in Altona only 328 persons died, against 8605 in Hamburg. In some streets one side lies in Hamburg, the other in Altona, and cholera stopped at the dividing line, the Hamburg side being full of cases and the Altona side untouched. In the following year, when Hamburg had the new filtered supply, it enjoyed equal immunity, save for a short period when, as we have said, raw Elbe water accidentally entered the mains.
But water, though the most important condition, is not the only one affecting the incidence of cholera. The case of Grimsby furnished a striking lesson to the contrary. Here the disease obtained a decided hold, in spite of a pure water-supply, through the fouling of the soil by cesspits and defective drainage. At Havre also its prevalence was due to a similar cause. Further, it was conclusively proved at Grimsby that cholera can be spread by sewage-fed shell-fish. Several of the local outbreaks in England were traced to the ingestion of oysters obtained from the Grimsby beds. In short, it may be said that all insanitary conditions favour the prevalence of cholera in some degree. Preventive inoculation with an attenuated virus was introduced by W. M. W. Haffkine, and has been extensively used in India, with considerable appearance of success so far as the statistical evidence goes.
As already remarked, the latest manifestations of cholera show that it has lost none of its former virulence and fatality. The symptoms are now regarded as the effects of the toxic action of the poison formed by the micro-organisms Treatment.upon the tissues and especially upon the nervous system. But this theory has not led to any effective treatment. Drugs in great variety were tried in the continental hospitals in 1892, but without any distinct success. The old controversy between the aperient and the astringent treatment reappeared. In Russia the former, which aims at evacuating the poison, was more generally adopted; in Germany the latter, which tries to conserve strength by stopping the flux, found more favour. Two methods of treatment were invariably found to give great relief, if not to prolong life and promote recovery—the hot bath and the injection of normal saline solution into the veins or the subcutaneous tissue. These two should always be tried in the cold and collapsed stages of cholera.