Cholera in Singapore

Cholera usually presents as severe watery diarrhoea with “rice water stool”, and it can be rapidly fatal because of the acute water loss from diarrhoea. It is caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Vibrio cholerae, and there have been seven global cholera pandemics to date.

Microscopic appearance of Gram-negative comma-shaped rods that is typical of V. cholerae (Credit: Diagnostic Bacteriology, SGH)

Microscopic appearance of Gram-negative comma-shaped rods that is typical of V. cholerae (Credit: Diagnostic Bacteriology, SGH)

List of Cholera Pandemics

  1. 1816-1826
  2. 1829-1851
  3. 1852-1860
  4. 1863-1875
  5. 1881-1896
  6. 1899-1923
  7. 1961-1975

Cholera Outbreaks in Singapore

  • 1841, 1851, 1858, 1862, 1873
  • 1900-1920: 2,693 deaths
  • 1921-1928: 29 deaths

(Source: Prof Goh Kee Tai)

Mass cholera immunisation campaign at the railway station and clinics located in Holland Road, South Buona Vista and Kay Hai Road. November 1963 (Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)

Mass cholera immunisation campaign at the railway station and clinics located in Holland Road, South Buona Vista and Kay Hai Road. November 1963 (Credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)

With the improvement in socioeconomic conditions and hygiene in Singapore, cholera outbreaks vanished and the disease is now only sporadically seen in Singapore. There is a vaccine available, but it is not part of the national childhood immunisation schedule.