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March 22, 2020

1849 cholera prevention poster by NYC Sanatory Committee, under sanction of the Medical Counsel, Source New York Historical Society (PD)

In the course of human history, hundreds of millions have died of widespread infectious diseases.

In the mid-1300s, the bubonic plague or “Black Death” killed 20 million.  In the 1600s, smallpox wiped out an estimated 70% of the Native America population [1].  In 1918, influenza a/k/a the Spanish flu killed 50 million worldwide [2].

Yellow fever, typhus, typhoid, malaria, measles, and HIV have all taken their toll [3A].

During the 19th Century, the scourge of cholera, a water-borne illness, swept the globe [3B].  Two pandemics occurred in the United States in 1832 and 1849 [4].

  • 5000 died in New York City.
  • 3500 died in Chicago.
  • 8000 died in Cincinnati.
  • 3000 died in New Orleans.
  • 12,000 died on their way to the California Gold Rush.

In total, an estimated 150,000 American died of cholera.

On July 3, 1849, President Zachary Taylor proclaimed a National Day of Fasting:

“At a season when the providence of God has manifested itself in the visitation of a fearful pestilence which is spreading itself throughout the land, it is fitting that a people whose reliance has ever been in His protection should humble themselves before His throne, and, while acknowledging past transgressions, ask a continuance of the Divine mercy.

It is therefore earnestly recommended that the first Friday in August be observed throughout the United States as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer…

It is recommended to persons of all religious denominations to abstain as far as practical from secular occupations and to assemble in their respective places of public worship, to acknowledge the Infinite Goodness which has watched over our existence as a nation, and so long crowned us with manifold blessings, and to implore the Almighty in His own good time to stay the destroying hand which is now lifted up against us.”

While drastic measures are being taken to halt the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is difficult to imagine such a proclamation being issued today.  Yet we are still in God’s care.  Ultimately, He will determine our fate.

if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7; 14).

[1]  Healthline, “The Worst Outbreaks in US History”,

[2]  Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus)”,

[3]  TCT Network, “Faith in History” c/o William Federer.  See,–recommended-a-Day-of-Fasting–Humiliation—Prayer—Zachary-Taylor.html?soid=1108762609255&aid=gbBTPNChobQ.

[4]  Wikipedia, “Cholera outbreaks and pandemics”,


  1. Lady Quixote/Linda Lee permalink

    Thank you for that verse in 2 Chronicles. It is very similar to a portion of scripture that jumped out at me as I was doing my daily Bible reading recently. The scripture is in Leviticus.

    Leviticus 26:3-9 New International Version (NIV)
    3 “‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. 5 Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.
    6 “‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. 7 You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.
    9 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you.

    It occurred to me as I was reading this the other day, that the sword can mean the word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword!

    • We can only pray that this crisis will draws hearts to God which are in desperate need of Him. May He keep you safe, Linda. ❤

  2. What has moved (and humbled) me in reading about past plagues, especially in the first few centuries after Christ, is the way the Christians were staying and helping the sick, even their pagan neighbors, while the leaders, physicians, and even the families of the afflicted were fleeing. There are so many lessons to be learned through all this. I hope we’re paying attention …

  3. Great post. There have been so many plagues that wiped out thousands.

    Hopefully. This one will be. Contained.

    Be safe.

  4. annadusseau permalink

    Very sobering to put things in perspective. I always find history does that. Really interesting; thank you.

    If it helps anyone, I have a list of 101 Homeschooling Activities on my blog

    Take care and stay safe, everyone.

  5. This is kind of shocking, Anna. It shows us just how far our nation has drifted from God. Let’s believe for revival.

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