The arrival of cholera in Portugal in 1833 killed 40,000 people - causing more casualties than the civil war being fought at the time, between liberals and absolutists. The bacterium had entered Europe only one year earlier, brought from the River Ganges, in India, via trade routes. In 1832 alone, it caused 20,000 deaths in Paris, and over 6,500 in London. And this first wave was followed by eight more epidemic waves, which were greatly exacerbated by the consumption of contaminated water and fresh produce, the concentration of infected people in confined spaces and a general lack of hygiene.
The last cholera epidemic broke out in 1974 in Tavira. According to the Expresso weekly newspaper, over 1,000 cases were recorded - in particular in Lisbon and in Porto. The precautions recommended at the time did not differ very much from the advice given during the current Covid-19 pandemic: the redoubling of hygiene standards, in particular hand washing; quarantine and isolation of high-risk groups. And in the case of cholera, of course, the disinfection of fresh foodstuffs and the boiling of drinking water.