You have died of cholera. Ah, the memories.
Adults who grew up with Apple IIs in the classroom in the 1990s are having a nostalgia field day now that the Internet Archive has made more than 2,000 MS DOS games available online, including the memorable Oregon Trail.
What makes it relevant to a Sewer District blog (and you, fine reader) is a look at the diseases that plagued the pioneers: Cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever, among others. You might not have realized it as a child, but the first three are caused by a lack of proper sanitation and still relevant today.
The Public Health LabLog has a great post from its archives about the diseases and their effects, but here are the highlights:
- Cholera is a diarrheal illness caused by a toxic bacteria, usually transmitted in food or water contaminated with infected feces. A cholera outbreak hit Cleveland in 1832.
- Dysentery is similar to cholera in its symptoms and transmission.
- Typhoid fever is contracted through infected food and drink and those infected shed the bacteria in their stool and urine for days and weeks after the infection. Our archive uncovered a graph of typhoid fever cases near Sandusky, Ohio in the early 1900s (seen below) with a huge spike in 1908.
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Wastewater treatment and proper sanitation have made these diseases rare in the developed world but they have not been eradicated by any means:
Cholera is still considered a global pandemic.
Dysentery in many strains is resistant to antibiotics.
Typhoid fever still affects more than 5,000 Americans per year, primarily those who travel abroad.
RELATED STORIES: What were toilets like in 1776?
Sewer districts and wastewater treatment agencies play a critical role in water quality and infrastructure that keep these diseases at bay.
So next time you saddle up with your 8-bit Conestoga wagon stocked with supplies, remember the clean-water systems that protect your family today.