cholera

What is cholera?

Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by a bacterial infection in the intestines.  The infection can have mild symptoms or can become very severe and cause death.

Where is cholera most common?

The disease is normally found in food or water sources contaminated by the feces of an infected person.  It is most common in areas with poor sanitation and inadequate water treatment.

In some cases, the disease can be contracted from eating undercooked or raw shellfish from brackish water sources.

How does a person get cholera?

A person can get cholera by eating food or drinking water infected with the cholera bacterium. It cannot spread directly between two people.

What are the symptoms of cholera?

Cholera symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent.  In 5-10% of cases, severe symptoms will occur.  Symptoms can start within a few hours and five days.  Severe symptoms include:

  • Extreme watery diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Leg cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Shock
  • Death, without treatment

What should I do if I think I have cholera?

Seek medical attention immediately.  Dehydration can occur immediately, so fluid replacement is critical.

How is cholera diagnosed?

Cholera bacterium can be detected from a stool sample or rectal swab.

How is cholera treated?

With rapid treatment, less than 1% of patients die from cholera.  Treatment includes:

  • Oral rehydration solution
  • Antibiotics, in some cases

How can I prevent cholera?

In places where cholera is common, you should:

  • Drink only sealed, bottled water and drinks
  • Wash your hands with soap and clean, warm water often or use antibacterial hand sanitizer
  • Use bottled, clean water to wash hands, wash dishes, brush your teeth, etc.
  • Only eat prepackaged food or foods that have been cooked fully
  • Dispose of feces in a sanitary manner

For more information on cholera, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cholera/index.html.