Nineteen people in Nashville and the surrounding area died of what doctors suspected to be cholera. Most of the deaths occurred near the city limits. The Nashville Union sought to control any possible panic by relaying information of the epidemic with this concluding sentence: This is the whole truth up to this time [original emphasis]. They reassured their readers that once the weather changed for the better, the health of the city would repair itself.
Cholera was also a worldwide threat - at the beginning of 1854 a Parisian identified only as M. Breant left 100,000 francs to be awarded to the discoverer of the cause of or cure for cholera. In the United States an Asiatic cholera epidemic had been raging since 1848, and people were terrified of catching the sudden illness. Wealthier families fled from the cities in fear of disease, and brought the cholera with them. At the time, scientists and medical professionals were unaware that cholera was spread through infected water. If a newspaper printed an article about the health of a city, it was often accompanied by the weather report, since it was assumed that sudden shifts in weather were indicative of a rise in disease.