I have been reading The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, about the outbreak of Cholera in London in 1854. It is very interesting, but horribly disgusting as well, because discussing cholera in the 1800's necessarily involves discussing human waste. And 2 million people living in a 30 mile radius created a real stinky mess.
The popular belief at the time was that disease was caused by miasma -- that the horrible stench of life in London -- all that human waste -- was behind all the diseases and sickness. So they built sewers that turned the Thames from a beautiful fishing grounds into a giant sewer. And because some companies used the Thames for the source of the water they pumped into people's homes, cholera was transmitted to more people.
So gross. Interesting stuff, though. People drank beer because it was safer than water, and it was better to die of cirrhosis of the liver in your 40's than dysentery in your 20's.
Unfortunately I was reading it yesterday while I was getting my Remicade infusion...before I get the Remicade, I am given an intervenous dose of Benadryl. I get very sleepy when they shoot that Benadryl in, and so I may have to re-read the first part of the book to see what I missed in my Benadryl haze.