Cholera Outbreaks in 19th Century Belize

[Linked Image]Cholera is a highly contagious, diarrhoea) infection caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water. The infection can kill within hours if left untreated. During the 1800s, there were six global pandemics with the first occurrence in the Americas in 1832. In January 1854, a cholera epidemic was reported in Belize. An Act was passed soon after making the filling of low-lying properties mandatory. Those in Belize Town were described as being "so low that they were frequently covered with stagnant and foetid water".

An outbreak that originated in New Orleans caused outbreaks in Central America between 1866 - 1868. In Belize, this occured December 1867 January 1868 with 580 deaths. The deceased in Belize Town were buried in the "Cholera Cemetery" along Faber's Road.

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THANKS TO MR ABDUL MARIN NUNEZ and HECTOR SILVA for this contribution.

IN 1918, or hundred and TWO YEARS AGO, when the only medication available for a fever or flu was QUININE and later COMOQUINE, this dreaded killer desease called SPANISH FLU or, I think YELLOW FEVER SWEPT through the Colony of British Honduras. Many many people died.

THIS WAS "AN INFECTIOUS DESEASE " said the Ordinance No 20 of 1918.

WRITTEN HISTORY TELLS US, that millions died as a result of this deadly Virus. (In fact there is a Yellow Fever Cemetery just past the Mirab Warehouse, past Lord's Ridge Cemetery.

LIKEWISE, this deadly desease was followed by another killer desease called, "CHOLERA", or " BLACK WATER FEVER. " (Millions also died all over the world.)

THERE IS ALSO a Cholera Cemetery, somewhere at MOHO CAYE north of Landivar.

THERE was another deadly desease called TUBERCULOSIS or T.B. Many people died from this desease, as it was very contagious even with the SALIVA.

There was a long barracks just behind the MCC Grounds, and while we played football in the early 1950's, we could hear the many patients COUGHING. (I really don't remember where they buried them.)

There was also a contagious WHOOPING COUGH which used to choke you to the ground.

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Yellow Fever is a viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. One of the first recorded fatalities in Belize occurred in 1799 aboard a ship in the Belize City harbour. This was followed by several outbreaks up to the early 1900s.

In 1884, Governor Roger T. Goldsworthy endorsed the dredging of the canals in Belize City. The inadequately completed job left sewage piled on the banks of the South Canal causing a yellow fever epidemic. In 1891, Governor Cornelius A. Moloney lost his wife, Constance, to yellow fever just two weeks after her arrival in Belize. As he was warned to leave her in London, the Governor blamed himself for her death and secluded himself for two weeks.

Two later outbreaks occurred in 1905 and in 1921. Norah Muriel, daughter of Governor Ernest B. Sweet-Escott died at the Government House during the outbreak in 1905. The 1921 outbreak was mostly confined to St. John's College with 18 cases and 4 fatalities.

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Jeremy A. Enriquez: In 1921 when the Yellow Fever epidemic affected Belize City. Anyone passing through Belize City to other parts of the country must be cleared by medical authorities. As this page of the book shows, her travel from PG all the way to Corozal to join my grandfather did not go smoothly as a result of that epidemic.

[Linked Image]"We sailed away from Corozal Town later that morning and arrived in Progresso in the afternoon, shortly after school was over for the day. Mr. Enriquez gladly came to meet us at the pier with a few school children and men to help us carry our luggage to our home. I felt such a relief and joy to finally arrive at my new home after all that rough travelling with the children all the way from Punta Gorda It was so good to be with my husband again.

However, the joy of arrival was quickly disturbed by some trouble. As soon as we were about to unpack and settle in, the village policeman arrived at our home and ordered Mr. Enriquez to immediately return the children and me to Corozal Town. I tried desperately to explain that the Nurse had granted me permission to travel but since I had no admission papers as proof, he did not change his mind. There were strict laws to make sure that the outbreak of Yellow Fever in Belize did not spread to the other parts of the colony. I felt very, very disappointed but we had to follow their orders. Immediately the boat returned with us to Corozal Town. Mr. Enriquez also came along to try to sort out the situation.

Soon after we arrived in Corozal Town that night, the officials sent a telegram to Belize asking permission for me to go Progresso since they found no kind of illness on me. The reply to the telegram took long in coming. Because Mr. Enriquez had only a day and a half leave from the school manager, he had to return to Progresso without the children and me before the time of his leave expired. We felt very disappointed that he had to return alone as there was nothing we could do but wait for the permission from the health authorities in Belize."