Cholera conquered nineteenth century Europe like a new air to a throne. The first outbreaks of the disease appeared to have begun in India which spread smoothly into Britain by trade through Britain’s Indian based empire. Cholera is identified by rapid liquid diarrhea, vomiting, and accelerated dehydration due to depletion of bodily liquids and salts causing blood to coagulate and skin to turn blue. This leads to a fall in blood pressure, otherwise known as the “sinking stage”, which is accompanied by muscle cramping, sunken cheeks and eyes. Eventually internal organs begin to shut down and at this point the host is not only humiliated due to the mutant effect that the disease has on physical appearance but are just as equally as frightened from the life-sucking grasp it has over their body. Victims of Cholera died within hours to a couple days of contracting this water born disease. Hence, the illness was able to swiftly take thousands of lives in Europe due to unsanitary conditions. This triggered an array of responses from the government and medical officials. As well as the way popular reactions influenced the design and implementation of public health policies during the nineteenth century cholera epidemics.
Government responses in Europe varied from nation to nation. Formerly, many governments denied the existence of cholera in order to protect the economy and trade. It was until they could no longer ignore the fact that outbreaks were becoming more intrusive did they acknowledge that something needed to be done.
Until the nineteenth century, cordon sanitaire systems and quarantine were the main disease control methods used to battle epidemics, thus isolation was not contemporary. However, in further response to nineteenth century cholera outbreaks in Europe, hospitals were fixated in cities and towns. Palanquin carts were provided in communities as a means of transport for cholera victims from their house to the nearest hospital. The establishment of separate Boards of Health “consist, if possible, of a resident clergyman and a number of substantial house holders, and of one medical man at least”1 (Stewart). Each of the boards followed specific duties, “to appoint inspectors…to receive and examine the reports of those inspectors…to endeavour to remedy by every means which individual and public charitable exertion can supply such deficiency as may be found to exist in their respective districts in the primary elements of public health …to report to their principle Boards respectively…”2 (Stewart). The Cholera Morbis Prevention Act passed in England in 1832 provided these local boards with power to react when outbreaks occurred. The government also made medical care free and easy to access in order to control outbreaks as well as improve the health of the poor living in urban slums and unsanitary conditions that could further spread the disease.
Although there were no healing preventatives against cholera, the government gave the public...