Cholera is a severe bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, which primarily affects the small intestine. The main symptoms are watery diarrhoea and vomiting. The mortality rate is about 50 per cent.
In what was known as the Second Pandemic, cholera reached Britain in October 1831 and within months there were 6,536 deaths. Cholera reappeared in London in June 1853.
During the third epidemic in 1854, during which 10,738 people died, Dr John Snow, a London anaesthetist, found that the worst areas affected were Vauxhall and Southwark.
John Snow asked permission to obtain the addresses of people who died of cholera in the districts which received water supplies from both the Southwark and Vauxhall and the Lambeth companies. He then visited the homes of all recorded cholera deaths in these districts, to get information about which company supplied water to the household. The table shows his results for the first 334 deaths. Both Lambeth and Southwark obtained sewage-contaminated water from the Thames.
|Source of water||No. of Deaths|
|Southwark and Vauxhall company||286|
|Direct from the river||22|
Snow established that the source of the infection was contaminated water by observing the epidemiology of the illness in the the Broad Street area of London’s West End, and successfully proving that the street water pump was to blame.