De Médaille d’Honneur des Épidémies (Medal of Honour of Epidemics) was instituted by decree of March 31st, 1885 as a consequence of the cholera epidemic of 1884. Initially the decoration was issued by the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Health which later became the Department of Public Health.
The motive was to honour those who had participated in combatting the epidemic of 1884 but later on, it was awarded to honour anyone who had participated in combatting or preventing any epidemic. By decree of April 15th, 1892, the award was also issued by the Department of War, on May 4th, 1900 the Department of the Interior for Algeria, on September 30th, the Department of the Navy and from June 3rd, 1927 onwards the Department of the Colonies, which at that time was still called the Department of France Overseas also issued the medal.
The award was to honour those having distinguished themselves during an outbreak of an epidemic disease by:
- exposure to risks of contamination and treatment of patients suffering from contageous diseases,
- personal and honourable devotion to prevent spreading of an epidemic disease,
- factual assistance in transfering disinfectants or the actual disinfection.
With the award went a certificate stating the actual reason for the awarding.
Owing to the many departments involved, various models of the same decoration appeared with small differing characteristics. In general, the decoration was awarded in four classes, Bronze, Silver, Gold plated and Gold. From 1962 onwards, the medals issued by the Department of the Interior for Algeria and the Department of France Overseas were revoked. In the same year, the medal issued by the Department of War and of the Navy were replaced by the Médaille d’Honneur du Service de Santé des Armées" (Medal of Honour of the Military Health Service).
The medal is suspended by a ribbon, 1.1 inch in width and consists of the French national flag, three vertical stripes in blue, white and red. The Gold plated and the Gold Medal had a rosette on the ribbon. The medal issued by the Department of the Navy has a red anchor on the ribbon.
The medal is circular in shape and measures 1.06 inch in diameter. The obverse is the same for all departments but has been slighly amended in the course of time. The center depicts an effigy of the French national symbol, the Marianne, looking left, surrounded on the left by the word "Repvblique" and on the right "Française." More ancient models depict a small star over the effigy between both words. Later models show a larger effigy of the "Marianne" and the star has been omitted.
The reverse of the first version of all the departments depicted the same effigy surrounded by the name of the particular department. The effigy in the center depicted an oblong in the form of an altar on which the name of the recipient could be engraced, topped by a chalice surrounded by a snake and a palmleaf, designed by Hubert Poscarne. Below the effigy, the word EPIDÉMIE was added. The second, more modern version depicted an effigy symbolic for the department that issued the medal with in the center a square on which the name of the recipient could be engraved.
The medal that was issued by the Department of the Interior for Algeria depicts as a variance between the medal itself and the suspensing eye of the ribbon a half moon with a star between the points.