significant illnesses of19th Century

Significant illnesses that affected mankind in the 19th century.

The first thing I found when I first started doing research on the disease and illnesses of this time was the cholera outbreak.

Cholera’s appearance in the 1800s can be explained away by the public health practices as a result of the industrial revolution, the movement of people into cramped cities away from rural settings. Cholera causes painful cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea and bad dehydration. The blood thickens as a result and the associated ‘blue’ skin tone occurs. Originally thought as a disease or sickness associated with the exposure to the new chemicals of the environment. Climate and geography was a factor, as was exposure to filth. The poor, who lived in the slums of the cities in squaller and filth suffered from it more commonly than those who were well off. It was widely believed that cholera was not contagious as a treating physician didn’t get sick. In 1855, John Snow demonstrated that cholera spread through contaminated drinking water.

With the wonderful use of the microscope by Robert Koch, 1883, he was able to isolate the bug (cholera bacillus) with a microscope, he developed the idea that disease was from bacteria, this alone was enough to be considered stepping away from the theory that disease was an inbalance of the humors. (Germ Theory Developed)  but the matter of the carriers was still around.

Treatment for this disease through the 19th century didn’t change, bleeding and opium were used by physicians. As many people know, this is where Homeopathy had its time to shine. Homeopathic treatments were more commonly used by the upperclass. At first migration was said to blame, well more so travellers from Germany and Ireland had the blame lumped on them from the US for bring the disease with them.


I think next to Cholera as a remarkable disease, who’s transmission left people baffled for a while is Typhus. Like Cholera, it is associated with the poor and filth that they live in.

Typhus can start with a rushed hit ten days after being infected, with a Headache, body pain, fever and chills, as the days go by, 4th day, a rash usually appears. Typhus is a bunch of diseases, not just one. Ticks, fleas and lice are the more common carriers, then followed by rodents and other animals, but it can be transmitted by many things, usually associated with filth. These carrier insects go hand in hand with overcrowding, lack of hygiene and sanitary behaviour, don’t forget the poor standard of living.  The disease is usually had its fun by the 12th day, but if not looked after properly, gangrene, pneumonia and kidney failure can happen then cardiac failure.

It wasn’t until 1897 that a vaccine was developed by Almroth Edward Wright.

An important scientific discovery in terms of healing was by Claude Bernard, and his discovery of the multiple functions of the live, not to mention the association of diabetes with the pancreas.