Cholera epidemics frequently come with a warning sign – in other words, severe outbreaks are often preceded by smaller outbreaks – according to a study released in late November by the Royal Society in London.
According to the study in the mid-19th century, London experienced four major years of cholera epidemics, with one year killing more than 13,000 Londoners. Looking at London’s cholera records, mathematical biologist Joseph Tien noticed a trend.
The severe cholera outbreaks always struck in summer, with the exception of smaller outbreaks during the spring of 1832, autumn of 1848, and winter of 1853. Those outbreaks are what Tien calls “heralds” or warning signs, of a bigger epidemic coming during the peak season for cholera.
In London’s case, the peak season for cholera is summer. Tien and his colleagues theorize that the arrival of a new strain of cholera triggered the smaller, off-season outbreaks. But climate conditions would limit cholera’s transmission, until warmer temperatures allowed the strain to resurface and spread.
Learning to love science. As a producer for EarthSky, Lindsay Patterson interviews some of the world's most fascinating scientists. Through EarthSky, her work content is syndicated on some of the world's top media websites, including USAToday.com and Reuters.com. Patterson is also charged with helping to stay in steady communication with the thousands of scientists who contribute to EarthSky's work of making the voice of science heard in a noisy world. She graduated from Colorado College with a degree in creative writing, and a keen interest in all forms of journalism and media.