Asiatic Cholera Pandemic of 1826-37 

The second cholera pandemic -- Asiatic Cholera Pandemic of 1826-37 -- like the first, originated in the province of Bengal in northeast India. Unlike the first pandemic, this one also penetrated countries in Europe and on the North American continent and is considered by many to be the greatest cholera pandemic of the nineteenth century. It is important to note, however, that scholars have disagreed about when this pandemic ended and the next one began. 

The pandemic began in 1826 with outbreaks in the Ganges River delta of Bengal. It then traveled up the Ganges River and entered Punjab province. Simultaneously. it spread along the regular routes to quickly extend over most of India. From Lahore in the northwest, cholera used the caravan routes to reach Kabul and Balkh in Afghanistan and crossed over into Russian territory at Bukhara in 1827. In 1828, cholera reached Chiva and was carried by the Kirghese hordes to Orenburg (Chkalov, Russia) at the southern tip of the Ural Mountains in August 1829.

In late 1829, Tehran in Persia (Iran) was infected, apparently via Afghanistan.  Moscow was invaded in August 1830 and, by 1831, the epidemic had infiltrated Russiaís main cities and towns. Russian soldiers brought the disease to Poland in February 1831 and from there its transmission was very rapid. Hungary was struck in June 1831 (reportedly some 250,000 cases, about 100,000 deaths) and, in Germany, Berlin (August 1831) and Hamburg (October 1831) reported cholera outbreaks. By now all the Baltic ports were reeling under the impact of the disease. In the north, cholera spread into Finland and Sweden. Vienna was infected in the same year, but the Austrian authorities were better prepared to deal with the outbreak, having received advance warning of its arrival. Everywhere, panic-stricken governments introduced desperate measures to deal with the disaster.

In October 1831, cholera entered England and Wales (more than 21,500 persons died in both countries from the disease) and Scotland (9,500 deaths) despite the strict quarantining of ships and merchandise. The cities of London and Glasgow were particularly hard hit. By March 1832, Ireland was invaded (25,000 deaths). France was struck in 1832 as well. In the same year, Irish immigrants to Canada and the United States carried cholera with them. Cholera attacked Havana, Cuba, in February 1833, killing more than 8,000 inhabitants, and arrived in Mexico where, by August, it had claimed some 15,000 lives.

While the disease continued to ravage most of Europe, it was also spreading rapidly in another direction. In the spring of 1831, pilgrims from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and the Arabian Peninsula brought cholera to Mecca, site of Islamís holiest shrine, at the time of the annual Hadj (pilgrimage). Within three weeks, nearly 3,000 Muslim pilgrims returning home from Mecca died of the disease. Mecca was thereafter regularly invaded by cholera epidemics until about 1912. Another branch of the epidemic infected Syria and Palestine, while a third offshoot crossed into Cairo (July 1831) and quickly infected the Nile River delta. Thirty-thousand human deaths were reported from Cairo and Alexandria over a 24-hour period. Muslim pilgrims also brought cholera into Tunis in 1831. Over the next few years, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Zanzibar, and, subsequently, other countries in North Africa (Algeria and Sudan) were invaded.

An English ship transported cholera into Portugal early in 1833. Spain, even with its strict enforcement
of quarantine measures, was infected in August 1833. In December 1834, the epidemic reached Marseilles, France. The rest of southern France and most of Italy were attacked over the following two years. In 1837, cholera reached Malta, killing about 3,000 people in a few months.

Little is known about the cholera pandemicís journey east of India. Apparently, traces of the first pandemic had lingered in Indonesia and the Philippines until 1830. Cholera was also reported from China in 1826 and 1835 (at Canton), from the Straits Settlements (Malaysia and Singapore) in 1826, and from Japan in 1831. Cholera continued to erupt in various parts of India throughout the 1830s. 

In England, the pandemic prompted the passage of the landmark Public Health Act and the Nuisances Removal Act in 1848.