Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

In our days, the study of communicable diseases has allowed the medicine to find the cure for such epidemics or control them in the population. However, some of these have lasted until our time. One of these cases is the disease known as cholera that has appeared in our days as an epidemic outbreak in the countries of South America and has already caused several deaths.

Until a century ago the disease had claimed thousands of victims, due to the lack of knowledge about hygiene, which was the main factor in the transmission of diseases in the 19th century. Cholera is a very old disease. In Hippocratic medicine, the word cholera served to designate bile.


For Galen, the cholera was: "a very acute and serious disease, which quickly empties the patient into violent vomiting, diarrhea, and abundant secretion. Winds and soon after the fever, similar to the fever of dysentery, with dangerous changes in the viscera.


The Arab and European navigators knew of the existence of this disease in the great deltas of South Asia and designated it with the Greek word choléra, that is to say, flow of bile. Asian cholera moved to Europe, and later to America, due to the rapidity and intensification of trade that began during the 19th century, beginning its long journey from Calcutta in 1817.


In 1820, it was introduced in Java and Borneo. He arrived in China in 1821, then expanded west of Ceylan and later arrived in Persia, Arabia, Syria and Cochinchina in that same year. (3) The vast Iranian territories of the Russian Empire were contaminated by the sick army and tens of thousands of Men died. In 1823 the disease of Asia emigrated towards Europe, being in the western coasts of the Caspian Sea and in the borders of the Volga. In 1826, cholera was again present in China and Russia. In 1830, another epidemic took place in Moscow and from there it spread to Poland and Germany, even reaching Hamburg.

In 1832 it penetrated English territory and in the first third of that year, the 25 of March, arrived in Paris; The misery and rotting of the streets made possible the presence of the ghost of Cholera morbus, as the Gazette Médicale of March 26 points out. (4) By 1833 the disease had reached Switzerland, Holland, and Portugal. Then the conditions for emigrating to America were already given.


During the spring of 1832 cholera infected groups of Irish people living near the ports, many of them, full of adventurous spirit, desirous of fame and fortune, embarked with their fantasies and went to America induced, especially by the Offers to emigrate made by the Government of Canada.

The people were put in boats that had of 100 to 200 passengers and crossed the Atlantic in bad conditions. Cholera began to charge victims in the first four ships, and of the 700 passengers they were driving, only one hundred remained. There was a quarantine in Quebec to avoid contagion, but the arrival of thousands of emigrants to that area broke the sanitary cord established; Constantia arrived in Gross Isle, near Quebec, on April 28 with 170 passengers on board, and reported that 29 deaths had occurred during the voyage, caused by cholera. Three other ships had arrived under similar conditions; the United States was subjected to the first invasion of the disease. The evil spread to New York City. The navigation routes contributed to the development of the contagios; From Nagodoches passed to Brazos and from there to Tampico. From Spain the disease had been taken to Havana, later to Campeche and shortly afterward to Yucatan; To the north and south of the Republic, evil spread.


From Tampico, it arrived later to San Luis Potosí and soon reached Guanajuato. In the month of July 1833, Querétaro had been infested by the arrival of some survivors of the Hacienda del Jaral. In Mexico City, August 6, 1833, a woman had succumbed to cholera. The following week, the celebrations of Santa María La Redonda took place, where food, drink, and lack of hygiene was the main source of contamination. Two days later, 1200 corpses were buried in 24 hours. At the same time, Guadalajara and Monterrey were under the influence of cholera. "


Guillermo Prieto describes the bitter situation through which Mexico passed from those times: "What left an indelible impression on my spirit was the terrible invasion of cholera in that year. The silent and deserted streets where the precipitous steps of someone who ran after help rang out at a distance; The yellow, black and white banners that served as a warning of the disease, of doctors, priests and houses of charity; Crowded pharmacies; The temples with the doors wide open with a thousand lights on the altars, the people kneeling with their arms and shedding tears ... At a great distance the lugubrious creaking of carriages that were pierced with corpses ... all this is reproduced today in my memory with Bright colors and makes me shiver. "


"From how many heartbreaking scenes I witnessed! I still remember entering a house, by the then neighborhood of Lagunilla, which would have thirty rooms, all empty, with doors that closed and opened the wind, abandoned furniture and junk ... frightening solitude and silence as if I had entrusted custody To the terror of death. "


The measures taken by the health authorities were correct at the time, but the Government's attention was directed more to political issues. Guillermo Prieto points out in his memoirs: "I heard the names of Santa Anna and Farias who alternately occupied power as two entrepreneurs of theater companies, the one with his entourage of balandrons and ignorant soldiers, tahures and scruffy agiotistas, and the Another with some eminent liberals, but with its tail of masons, of anarchic hooligans and of people of action who was an anthill of the demons. "


Many trusted that the disappearance of evil government would be the remedy of all the ills of that society. Several military movements took place and the political upheavals became social concerns that forged in the figure of the moment: Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.


The year of the cholera was as it was denominated to 1833, year in which the terrible pandemic happened; Accompanied by a series of warnings, such as: "such a northern aurora that in 1833 reddened the sky and made the naive fear the punishment of God for the reforms of Don Valentin Gomez Farias, as seemed to confirm the epidemic of cholera that Accompanied them. "


The State did not respond to the needs of the poor classes. The sick were multiplying and this led to the government issuing instructions to prevent and control the epidemic, joint surveillance, and relief, while traditional medicine was spread with home remedies that tried to avoid death. Terror caused many families to emigrate and the disease spread throughout the country. Cholera produced numerous casualties among the army of General Santa Anna, who, on his way to Queretaro, only contributed to the spread of the disease. It also happened that "Governor Romero, a loyal supporter of federalism and friend of Gomez Farias, received a letter from the vice president, asking him to send a contingent of one thousand men from the civic militia to Queretaro, where Santa Anna was waiting for reinforcements. The aid probably did not arrive nor a consignment of 1200 rifles that Romero should receive from Tampico since all the muleteers who should lead the shipment had died of rage. "


In his official part, Santa Anna reports that two thousand of his men died of cholera in just a few days. The epidemic disappeared towards the end of October and by November of 1833, no case was registered. The evil left a balance of about fourteen thousand dead. But cholera did not disappear altogether since other outbreaks were repeated in Mexico during the years of 1850, 1854, 1866 and 1883.


Although there are no concise studies on this subject, an unpublished manuscript on the subject has been found in the Historical Archive of Medicine in recent months. The content shows an interesting medical report, apparently made by Dr. Felipe Castillo about the epidemic of 1850.11 Undoubtedly it is one of the most palpable samples of the history of epidemics pending a medical historical analysis.


At the end of 1853, a new epidemic began and continued until 1854, with a total of four thousand deaths; On this occasion, the origin was the exhumations of corpses that were made in the pantheon of San Dieguito.


In 1865 the disease appeared again, now in Suez, Alexandria, Constantinople, Marseilles, France, Spain, Havana, United States and once again entered Mexico by the north of the country, Tampico. In 1882 and 1883 cholera produced great havoc in Egypt and appeared again in Europe. In Mexico, during that year, there were only a few cases of patients in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Tabasco. Between 1884 and 1887 it reappeared in Europe, especially in France, Italy, and Spain.


In 1851, in one of his writings, Dr. I. Olvera stated the following: "In Mexico, in every epidemic, there has been cholera, bronchitis, puerperal peritonitis and rheumatism have always reigned. On the other hand, a few days before they appeared, the acute illness disappeared, to the degree that the doctors came to have no patients.


Cholera in Mexico always began sporadically, which made doctors hesitate for many days that the city might be invaded. In some cases it appeared intermittently; So Dr. Olvera quotes the case of a patient who succumbed after two and a half months of being ill, during which time he had more than ten sporadic cholera outbreaks.


When the diseases that usually came from an "atmospheric constitution" began to appear, it was a sure sign that cholera was beginning to subside and that the epidemic was about to end. Dr. Olvera said that "... we received pleasure the first time that we observed a typhoid, because we had it as a sure omen of the disappearance of the cholera, in which we are not mistaken."


During the nineteenth century, at the speed with which knowledge was created, many scientists did not stop to reflect or doubt about science, because its fundamental purpose was to seek the truth. Thus an interesting theory emerged, a sample of the medical astronomical science of the moment, which indicated that the periodicity of the epidemic was related to the occurrence of the cycles of maximum and minimum solar activity, following the hypothesis of Jenkins, widely spread by the Mexican astronomer, the ING. Francisco Diaz Covarrubias, who published it in the Annals of the Humboldt Society in 1874.14 There it is pointed out that the sunspots are subject to two periods, one of maximum and one of minimum intensity, which comprise 11.11 years of minimum, another of 4.77 After the minimum, which corresponds to the maximum. Jenkins noted that the maximum and the minimum corresponding to the maximum and minimum of cholera.


Covarrubias carried out this idea with the prediction of an epidemic that would occur ten years after the publication of his writing, I mean the one that began in 1883 and ended in 1884. The relationship found indicated the years 1800, 1816, 1833, 1849, 1866, 1883 and 1900, coinciding in 1816 with the terrible epidemic of India, with the pandemic of 1833, the epidemic of 1850,16 those occurred in 1866 and 1883. In Mexico took place in 1854 another epidemic that apparently is Outside the statistical pattern, but if we consider that the period of minimum is 4.77 when adding to the figure of 1849.99, we get 1854.76 and that year precisely happened. Which led to conjecture to Covarrubias that could present this extraordinary epidemic every century.


For the twentieth century, the predictions were for the years 1916, 1933, 1950, 1966, 1983 and 2000. Not forgetting that an extraordinary epidemic would take place in 1955.17 Trying to look for causal relations in our day is difficult, but it is Interesting to note that in the last century these theories were the solution to the diseases of the time. At present, the only way to remedy this is through the hygiene and health of the cities, their inhabitants, and peoples. The great legacy of the previous generations has been the knowledge of the diseases, as well as the search for the cure and its treatment. A task that every day needs the study of diseases in the past and the need for a history of epidemics, which is becoming more complete in the contemporary world.



The present work has been the fruit of the reflections that have been made on the subject in 1991. I hope it will not be a further essay in the vast bibliography that exists, but an open door to new research.


Bibliographic references

1. Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine 1979, Anthology of historical medical writings of Dr. Francisco Fernández del Castilla, Faculty of Medicine, UNAM, Mexico, p. 562. Ibid., 562.

2. Flores, F.A., 1982, History of medicine in Mexico from the time of the Indians to the present, tome III, Mexico, IMSS, Facsimile edition of the publication made in 1888 by the Ministry of Development, p. 289.

3. The Sense of an Ending - Assignment Example, Primetime Essay writing resource,

4. Chambers, J. S., Cf., 1938, The conquest of cholera America's greatest scourge, The Macmillan Company, New York, p. 24-29. Vid, Faculty of Medicine, op. Cit, p. 563.