El Tor cholera is the vibrio responsible for the seventh pandemic of cholera, which began in 1961 when V. cholera biotype El Tor spread outside its endemic area in Celebes (Sulawesi) in Indonesia, probably because of increased population movements. It first reached other countries of eastern Asia, then Bangladesh in 1963, India in 1964, and the USSR, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iraq in 1965-1966, and reached west Africa in 1970, where, favoured by environmental conditions in the coastal regions, it became endemic. It takes its name from the El Tor quarantine camp in Sinai where it was first isolated.
In mid-April 1991, WHO received reports of over 177,000 new cases of El Tor cholera in 12 countries, the latest in the outbreaks of the 30-year old "El Tor" pandemic of the disease. Of these countries, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, accounted for 78% of the total number of cases and for over 1,200 deaths. This is the first time in this century that cholera has been reported from Latin America. In Peru alone, it is estimated that some $60 million would need to be spent immediately to meet the most immediate demands of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Later in 1991, WHO reported that El Tor cholera was sweeping through Africa at a "catastrophic" pace in some countries, and was killing people at a much higher rate than seen during the peak of outbreak in Latin America.