Cholera

Written by Amanda J. Thomas
Review by Edward James

How can a nation fight a deadly pandemic when nobody understands the disease or knows a cure?  This is what faced Britain in four major cholera outbreaks in 1832, 1848, 1853 and 1866.  They did it by track and trace, pioneered by Dr John Snow, best known for asking the parish authorities to remove the handle from the Broad Street pump (thereby halting the water-borne transmission of the disease),

Thomas is anxious to ‘demythologise’ Snow; the epidemic was already abating when the pump was removed, drinking water was not the only transmission route, he had the wrong Patient Zero.  Maybe, but Dr Snow is still my hero.  His system worked and he did not even have a phone, let alone an app.

This is an authoritative account of the origins and spread of the disease and its consequences for public health in England and the world, including a major rebuilding of London’s sewage system and a huge improvement in the collection of national statistics.  At times the medical explanations can be heavy going for a layman but Thomas gives us the latest research on this far from extinct disease.