The word cholera is from Greek: χολέρα from χολή meaning “bile”. Cholera likely has its origins in the Indian Subcontinent; it has been prevalent in the Ganges delta since ancient times. The disease first spread by trade routes (land and sea) to Russia in 1817, then to the rest of Europe, and from Europe to North America. Seven cholera pandemics have occurred in the past 200 years, with the seventh originating in Indonesia in 1961.
From a local disease, cholera became one of the most widespread and deadly diseases of the 19th century, killing an estimated tens of millions of people. In Russia alone, between 1847 and 1851, more than one million people perished of the disease. It killed 150,000 Americans during the second pandemic. Between 1900 and 1920, perhaps eight million people died of cholera in India. Cholera became the first reportable disease in the United States due to the significant effects it had on health.