Disease Enters through the Mouth: The Outbreak of Cholera El Tor in Hong Kong during Early 1960s

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The epidemic Cholera El Tor broke out during 1960s in Hong Kong. According to medical research, food and water played a significant role in the transmission of cholera in Hong Kong. Carried by food-handlers, cholera vibrios came to be highly infectious, especially in view of water shortage in Hong Kong. As a result, citizens had to use well water, an important source of cholera; in Temple Street, for instance, residents drank polluted well water through illegal water pipes.

The outbreak of cholera during this era revealed the environmental hygiene and sanitation problems in Hong Kong after World War Two. The population of Hong Kong increased rapidly due to the huge influx of refugees from mainland China. They crowded unplanned squatter areas, where sanitation and hygiene conditions were poor. Also, legal ordinance related to the supervision of food production and sewage system was not effectively implemented, consequently providing favorable circumstance for the growth of cholera vibrios. To control this, the Hong Kong government enforced anti-cholera measures to control the spread of cholera, such as supervision of food premises and food hawkers, as well as health education. Such measures in the long term improved municipal problem like illegal food hawkers and gradually changed the dieting habits of Hong Kong people.

This paper examines the environmental sanitation and hygiene problems of Hong Kong in early 1960s, taking the outbreak of Cholera El Tor as a case study to demonstrate the Hong Kong government’s control measures.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2016
EventAAS-in-Asia Conference 2016: Asia in Motion: Horizons in Hope - Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 24 Jun 201627 Jun 2016


ConferenceAAS-in-Asia Conference 2016
Internet address


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