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Cholera epidemic

Does anyone remember the cholera epidemic in 1963? I think it was in the later part of the year–August or September. We were restricted from buying local fresh fruits and vegetables. I also remember going to the Navy Clinic to get a cholera booster shot.

Although I don’t remember any Americans getting sick or dying, I do remember deaths and fear in the poorer slum areas of the city.

8 comments to Cholera epidemic

  • Kathy

    I found my shot records of the period. I received the cholera booster shot on 8 November 1963.

    • Kathy – in November 1963 I was working as a newspaper editor in the mid-west, so I missed the Cholera epidemic in Saigon. Can’t say I’m sorry to have missed it either – LOL.

      But, I do remember having to keep all my *shots* updated. Geez, everytime we changed posts, I think they gave me about 50 different shots – lol.

      I remember while living in Saigon that every few weeks I’d come down with *The Bug* from something I ate or drank some place – lol – then it was off to the Clinic (which was a *running* event in more ways then one) where the good doctor would hand me a bottle of bright green liquid stuff to drink. It literally felt like drinking *fire* as it went down. He’d also give me a bottle filled with a white thick chalky liquid (I think it was called Kopectate (sp?), or something like that) – the green stuff was to kill the *bug* but created a serious case of the runs – lol. Or more properly stated – increased the existing *flow* considerably – lol. The white liquid chalk was suppose to slow the *flow* down. When he’d hand me *one* bottle of the green stuff and 2 large bottles of the white liquid chalk – I knew I was in deep trouble – LOL.

      I’d classify *The Bug* as something I *do not* miss about Saigon – 🙂

    • Here is what the white thick chalky stuff was – LOL.

      Kaopectate you can learn about it HERE.


  • Leri

    Having returned to the States in ’60, I missed that too, but given all the shot we got regularly I can’t imagine any Americans getting it. I think we had boosters every 6 months: Typhoid, typhus and cholera, and then small pox and tetanus annually. That didn’t include the TB tests at school and polio. On the “bug” note, my guess is that the white chalky stuff was paregoric. Fantastic stuff! I was just asking a Dr. the other day if they still prescribe it. Nope. It’s an opiate.

  • Kathy (Connor) Dobronyi

    Just found these two newspaper articles concerning the cholera epidemic:

    21 January 1964—Saigon (Reuters)— Cholera Sweeps South Viet Nam –A full-scale cholera epidemic which has already claimed 67 lives here was reported Monday to be sweeping through South Viet Nam. Sources said the type of cholera diagnosed in this capital can kill in 24 hours. Saigon undertakers reported they had run out of coffins

    The United States began donating large quantities of serum for treatment in addition to 5,000,000 vaccination doses. Major outbreaks were reported in at least two areas on the edge of Saigon, apart from an outbreak in the capital itself. Informed sources said the South Vietnamese health industry had sent a cable to the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland advising officials that Saigon is a cholera area. However, no quarantine restrictions were imposed in Saigon Airport or shipping port on the Saigon River. During the weekend, the Viet Nam press news agency reported that 750,000 Saigon residents were given anti-cholera shots last week.

    24 January 1964 Saturday—Saigon (CP-AP)—S. Viet Nam Cholera Toll Reaches 122–At least 1,136 cases of cholera and 122 deaths from the disease have been reported in a current epidemic in Saigon and six surrounding countries in South Viet Nam. The U.S. government is shipping more than $5,000,000 worth of vaccine and equipment into the country to fight the rising epidemic. U.S. health officials said there probably would be 18,000 cases before the epidemic passes with nearly 3,000 deaths. The last big epidemic in 1948 took 9,000 lives. Winnipeg Free Press (p. 25) Canada

  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    My memory reflects Leri’s about the number and regularity of shots and boosters while in Saigon during the ’58-’60 time period.I, too, have my old shot record, and recall the swelling and pain from the typhoid shots, especially.
    Missed the cholera epidemic, but I do remember being afraid of contracting “Black Water Fever” otherwise known as “break-bone fever,” due to the fact that you felt like every bone in your body was broken. How you got it I have no idea, but my parents knew of someone flown to Manilla with it, and it sounded excrutiatingly painful. I think the paient’s urine turned black, thus the “official” name of the disease.
    You could certainly catch some weird things over there.

    Anyone get that fungus that started with a little cut and then began to eat your arm or face or whatever part it attacked? Pouring peroxide on it til it stopped foaming was the “cure!”
    Lovely memories, tonight!


    [Black Water Fever and Causes, Symptoms and Treatment – Bob ]

    • Janet Bogardus

      I don’t remember any of that stuff, but I did get an ear fungus from swimming in the Cercle Sportif pool on the last day before they cleaned it – remember the water used to get bright green with algae after 6 days, and then they would clean it!


      • Hmmm?? … *green water* … umm don’t think I ever noticed it, probably cuz I was blinded by the *veiw* of all the *lovely girls* at the pool – LOL – 🙂


        PS: When the TV program *The View* first came out years ago, every time I heard it advertised … it would trigger my memories of *The View at Cercle Sportif* in old Saigon. I tought it a bit odd at the time that my memories of Cercle Sportif all involved *the view* of girls, and the TV program *The View* was hosted by all women – LOL.

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