The upcoming September 14th episode AMC’s Hell on Wheels – the 7th of Season 3 – will incorporate the history of cholera outbreaks into its storyline of westward railroad construction in the post-Civil War era. Lead character Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), now chief engineer for the Union Pacific, will need to find a source of fresh water for his Union Pacific railway workers when a cholera epidemic strikes the mobile town of Hell on Wheels.

Cholera is usually transmitted via water or food sources contaminated by the human waste products of a bacteria-infected individual. Cholera results in an infection of the small intestine which can lead to rapid dehydration and even death – sufferers need to rehydrate.

There have been a number of recorded cholera pandemics. The Fourth Cholera Pandemic in the 19th century covered the years of 1863 to 1879 – the current season of Hell on Wheels is set in 1867. During the Fourth Pandemic, cholera spread into the interior of North America from port cities and waterways that reach inland. It is estimated that cholera still affects up to 5 million people worldwide each year. Rats have also been known to transmit the disease.


Season 3 of Hell on Wheels airs Saturday Nights on AMC at 9E/8C – the current season runs for a total of 10 episodes.

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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