BRIEF HISTORY DURING THE SNOW ERA (1813-58)
In every epidemic there are missed opportunities, or moments when actions are not taken that could have adverted the killing emergence of a deadly disease agent. John Snow identified such a moment, preceding the cholera epidemic of 1853-4.
He wrote of this time...
"In the beginning of the late epidemic of cholera in London [1853-4], the Thames water seems to have been the great means of its diffusion, either through the pipes of the Southwark and Vauxhall Company, or more directly by dipping a pail in the river. Cholera was prevailing in the Baltic Fleet in the early part of summer, and the following passage from the "Weekly Returns" of the Registrar-General shows that the disease was probably imported thence to the Thames.
"Bermondsey, St. James. At 10, Marine Street, on 25th July , a mate mariner, aged 34 years, Asiatic cholera 101 hours, after premonitory diarrhea 16.5 hours. The medical attendant states: 'This patient was the chief mate to a steam-vessel taking stores to and bringing home invalids from the Baltic Fleet. Three weeks ago he brought home in his cabin the soiled linen of an officer who had been ill. The linen was washed and returned.' "
The time when this steam-vessel arrived in the Thames with the soiled linen on board, was a few days before the first cases of cholera appeared in London, and these first cases were chiefly amongst persons connected with the shipping in the river. It is not improbable therefore that a few simple precautions, with respect to the communications with the Baltic Fleet, might have saved London from the cholera this year, or at all events greatly retarded its appearance."
- Snow, John. Communication of Cholera, 1855, pp. 81-2
The home of the index case in Marine Street is shown in the 1859 map at the bottom center of O 25, just below "a" in Neckinger Road. Greater detail is presented in the 1846, 1862 and 1872 maps.