Indian doctors and the history of Cholera

Ever since its emergence in 1817 in Ganges Delta, CholeraCholera has been of the most talked-about infectious diseases in India stemming from contaminated rice. The disease, which was caused by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae, spread across many regions of India, which the Europeans then controlled. The pandemic was urged, and it was really hard for the people to deal with it since it infected 1.3 to 1.4 million people and killing 21,000 to 143,000 each year. All this was scary and created a challenge for Indian doctors to deal with the disease. A solution was the need of the hour, and Indian doctors worked day and night for the same.

What is CholeraCholera and how did it originate?

Cholera is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium that typically lived in waters that are somewhat salty and warm, such as estuaries, waters, coastal areas, and other contaminated water. People contact this disease after drinking liquids or eating foods contaminated with the bacteria, such as raw or undercooked shellfish. There are hundreds of known strains of the bacteria that cause CholeraCholera but only two strains O1 and O139, are most effective and capable of causing outbreaks and epidemics. These strains produce the cholera toxin, which causes cells lining the intestines to release increased amounts of water, leading to diarrhea and rapid loss of fluid and electrolytes, which are essential for the human body daily. The research was carried out and proved that a single diarrhea episode could cause a one-million-fold increase of bacterial numbers in the environment, which is quite significant and impacts people’s lives.

Even though the recorded first pandemic was in 1817, it is still unclear when the first affected people originally got the infection. There are texts in ancient Indian works from the doctors of that period about isolated cases of cholera-like illness. The local people called the disease “moryxy” and it reportedly killed victims within 8 hours of developing symptoms and had a fatality rate so high that locals struggled to bury all dead. These experiences gave rise to numerous reports of cholera manifestations along the West Coast of India by European countries that had the country under their control at that period. Many countries followed the observations while the infection spread, and the work for a solution was more intense with each passing day. Cholera which spread in few western countries, died within six years thanks to a severe winter during that time which may have killed the bacteria living in water supplies.

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Symptoms of Cholera

The symptoms of CholeraCholera are different in different people. About 80 percent of people who contract the bacteria don’t develop the visible symptoms of CholeraCholera, and the infections resolve on their own. But speaking of the people who develop the alarming symptoms, 20 percent of them come down with severe symptoms, including severe diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. These symptoms can cause dehydration, septic shock, and even death within a matter of just a few hours if left unnoticed. A quick consultation with a doctor is always the right way in treating a patient who starts to develop these symptoms to reduce the risk of life. Today, CholeraCholera is treated through fluid replacement and antibiotics. According to the World Health Organization, cholera vaccines are available on a fair amount though they are reported to offer only around 65% of immunity required to eradicate the infection. Indian doctors have come a long way in treating CholeraCholera and have proven to be quite effective in treating it with the availability of vaccines by their side. This makes it reassuring, but the infected person has to consult the doctor as soon as possible once identified the symptoms.

Role of Indian doctors in treating CholeraCholera

The role western physicians played in treating and conducting research into nineteenth-century Indian cholera epidemics is well-publicized. However, it is also important to remember the crucial role of Indian doctors employed by the government of India to combat such outbreaks. When the first cholera pandemic broke out, the government had treated over 21,876 individual cases within months, which is a significant number considering the period when it took place. The medical authorities did not yet understand the causes of CholeraCholera nor how to treat it effectively, often prescribing brutal treatments or dangerous substances such as opium. This made the government switch to a more developed system of treating CholeraCholera to combat the cholera disease, and they have come a long way in doing so. Many doctors were employed to research a safe, inexpensive, and productive cholera vaccine, thus becoming available in India after almost three decades of non-availability of any cholera vaccine in India. Since two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas and only 26% of households have access to good sanitation, it is not surprising that CholeraCholera is an important public health problem. However, cholera cases are hugely underreported mainly because disease surveillance is limited and laboratory capacity is inadequate.

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The doctors have to be in parallel to the research and stay updated with the research related to CholeraCholera to effectively treat the disease and reduce the infection. As policymakers have pointed out, to decide the scope of control strategies, including vaccination, it is essential to know the age-specific incidence of CholeraCholera. Now that a cholera vaccine has been introduced in India, it is important to assess its impact in the country, and that is not possible unless the disease burden can be estimated. Indian doctors are also aware that CholeraCholera is changing epidemiologically. Multiple antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria have emerged, which have spread into Asia and parts of Africa. The severity of the disease appears to be intensifying, and recent cholera outbreaks in various places, including Bangalore in Karnataka in the past year, produce more alarming signs of the outbreak.


Indian doctors and the government’s history in dealing with CholeraCholera is a mixed bag and cholera control should be identified as a priority in the previously affected areas with endemic CholeraCholera since outbreaks of the disease can disrupt health systems. While the Indian doctors always advise long-term intervention to improve water and sanitation as the mainstay of cholera control measures, the government tends to take actions rather slowly dealing with the same. This was quite evident with the past year’s Bangalore outbreak which was dealt with quite well but with the short-term effect of oral cholera vaccine resulting in immediate response. This is an important issue while dealing with a disease the extent of severity as CholeraCholera. These oral vaccines should be in areas where CholeraCholera is endemic, particularly those at risk of outbreaks, in conjunction with other prevention and control strategies. Since we are looking forward to a more research-oriented ear, it is expected that the Indian government and the doctors are working towards completely eradicating the disease from the country. This approach is more logical considering the country’s huge population, where the risk of infection is greater than in most countries.

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