Cholera’s Second Fever: An Urge to Blame

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If United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal are going to be blamed for bringing cholera to Haiti, it’s important to remember that the blame game for pandemics eventually involves everyone.

For example, cholera has laid waste to New York City several times. The first time, in 1832, New Yorkers blamed Canada, since it had worked its way slowly down from Montreal. The last time, in 1866, they blamed the Irish, some of whom were sneaking ashore from quarantined ships.

In this cholera pandemic — the seventh since the first recorded one in 1816 — one strain of the bacteria reached this hemisphere in 1991, probably in an Asian freighter dumping its bilge tanks in a Peruvian harbor. When it reached the Mexican highlands a few months later, South American cocaine smugglers were suspected....

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