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Thursday
Oct302008

The Cholera Epidemic of 1855-56

Here is the movement of the first terrible cholera epidemic in Brazil as it spread in 1855 and 1856.  This is the first map of its kind for Brazil and up to now, no one has given us a full picture of where cholera struck and how fast it spread [red indicates confirmed areas of disease presence, red lines indicate sporadic cases, red points are areas where cholera was probably infecting people, but this was not confirmed by the presidential reports]. In the handful of regional studies of this epidemic or references to the disease in Brazilian history, it is easy to get the impression that it infected Brazilians throughout the country during these years. This was not the case, as these illustrations make clear. There were some other discoveries that I will discuss in more detail when I write this chapter: 1) rivers facilitated the spread of cholera; 2) it did not cross mountain ranges; 3) it always struck larger urban population centers on the coast before spreading inward; and 4) the Brazilian North and Northeast were affected much more than the southern and south-central parts of Brazil. One of my goals is to measure the economic consequences of epidemics and disease like cholera, and I have an unproven hunch that the Northeast suffered in economic terms much more from these disasters than other regions.  A set of larger (.pdf) maps are available here.

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    Era of Epidemics: A Spatial Approach to Disease and History in Imperial Brazil - Journal - The Cholera Epidemic of 1855-56

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