"Pursued by cholera"
1831 lithograph depiction of cholera pandemic
Public Domain1831 lithograph depiction of cholera pandemic - Credit: Robert Seymour

Cholera is a disease transmitted primarily through consuming contaminated drinking water or food. The main symptoms are profuse and violent cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, with dehydration so rapid and severe the blood thickens and the skin become deathlike and blue. If not aggressively treated, cholera victims can die within a matter of hours.

Cholera became one of the most widespread and deadly diseases of the 19th century, killing an estimated tens of millions of people worldwide. The second cholera pandemic, also known as the reign of King Cholera, caused more than 150,000 deaths in America from 1832 to 1873.