How To Prepare for an Outbreak

Cholera’s Worst Nightmare

“Protection Against Cholera.” from January 30th, 1908

An article in my January 30th, 1908 issue of the Egyptian Gazette, “Protection Against Cholera” speaks on the Alexandria Sanitation Department issuing a statement on what steps they will take to stop the spread of cholera. I find this interesting because when an outbreak of anything happens today, the CDC for example, might send out a similar statement. What also interests me is the difference between the two organizations that would issue such a statement. In Alexandria, the sanitation department seemed to have authority over the control and prevention of disease spreading. This goes on to suggest that early 20th century disease control was thought to be based entirely on sanitation. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has authority over the research and prevention of infectious diseases.

The article says that its primary goal was to inform the readers of the preparations they can take to guard their own safe being. The following is what the article says the Sanitary Department Suggests:

  • Wash our hands after every visit to “lieux d’aisance” and each time before eating.
  • Eat only well-cooked food; avoid altogether unfiltered water, uncooked milk and butter vegetables and fruits which can be neither cooked nor peeled.
  • Avoid all excess of food, generally, and too cold drinks.
  • Call in the doctor immediately on the slighted suspicion
  • Watch your servants; do not allow them to go out without changing their clothes and washing their hands on returning; do not allow the boabs to have any persons not belonging to the building with them.

These precautions are interesting because a lot of the suggestions are commonplace today. The second portion of the article describes the actions that the sanitary department will do to inspect the town of infectious diseases. They will inspect establishments and tell them to disinfect with carbonate lime. This will also result in a number of wells being closing down throughout the city.

At the end of the article, it is mentioned that a “Coastguard cruiser” is patrolling the waters of the Red Sea, to prevent pilgrims crossing into Egypt. This article was published towards the end of the Islamic Pilgrimage to Mecca. Also in this time period are many reports from Mecca of reports of Cholera. History also has also seen throughout the 19th century that cholera has spread from Mecca during Hajj. Therefore the coastguard trying to keep the pilgrims from entering Egypt might be a good way to keep Alexandria safe from the threat of cholera.

Jake Himmel
Jake Himmel

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in fall 2019.