One hundred and three years ago today, Le Petit Journal, a French newspaper, featured an illustration of cholera, which was decimating the troops of World War I: Death cuts through the marching men with a scythe. Notably, the men wear the red fez, identifying them as Tirailleurs Sénégalais. (Tirailleur translates variously as “skirmisher,” “rifleman,” or “sharpshooter”; Senegal was then a French colonial possession in West Africa.)
In the past 200 years, seven cholera pandemics have killed millions across the globe. The seventh is still going on, but advancements in medical science have greatly reduced the number of people who die from it.
…At the turn of the twentieth century, the sixth cholera pandemic killed more than 800,000 in India before moving into the Middle East, northern Africa, Russia and parts of Europe. By 1923, cholera had receded from most of the world, although many cases were still present in India.