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"To the Editor ["cholera-phobia" as a predisposing cause]"

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(27 June 1831): 6, b-c

PDF courtesy of Times Digital Archive, Michigan State University Libraries.

A few extracts from the PDF:

"The cholera-phobia will frighten to death a far greater number of Britons than the monster itself will ever destroy by his actual presence" (6,b).

"From all I have seen [in India], read, and thought, I am perfectly convinced that this, like other epidemics, rises from causes over which we have no control, and that, although in some situations, and under certain unfavourable circumstances, it may take on a contagious or infectious (for the distinction is only verbal) character, that contagion or infection will never spread to any extent in these islands. That the primary causes of cholera, as well as of other epidemics, spring from the bowels of the earth, and thus contaminate the air we breathe, is the conclusion to which all philosophic observers must come at last" (6,c)

"The disease often travelled directly against the monsoon winds, which blow for months in one uniform direction; proving almost to a demonstration, that the cause was some emanation from the earth, rather than a peculiar state of the air. As for contagion, there was not one in 100 of the medical men who saw the disease, and who entertained the slightest belief in such a thing. There is no doubt, however, that almost any disease, whatever was its primary cause, may take on a contagious character, under peculiar circumstances--as crowding, filth, and, it may be added, fear; but this contingent character [my emphasis] is rarely either durable or malignant, and the disease is easily divested of this superadded quality, by proper attention to cleanliness, ventilation, and separation" (6,c).

As Johnson noted in a letter to the Editor of the Lancet five months later, he held views on cholera as a contingent contagion from the get-go.

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