Cholera Overview

What is Cholera?

Cholera is a potentially life-threatening, often water borne disease caused by bacterial infection. The bacterial infection causes watery diarrhea, which causes rapid dehydration. It is this dehydration which is potentially fatal. It is highly-infectious, causing a number of epidemics and pandemics.

How do you get Cholera?

You can contract the bacteria that causes Cholera through ingesting contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
Common foods posing a high risk are undercooked or raw shellfish and fish, however any food or drink contaminated by infected persons pose a high risk, and if water sanitation is poor, large populations are at risk.

What are the symptoms of Cholera?

Most infected people do not show any symptoms, but remain carriers.
Mild cases of Cholera show symptoms a few hours to a week after first infection, causing mild diarrhea and sometimes vomiting.
More severe cases of Cholera develop frequent watery diarrhea, causing severe dehydration, and if rehydration is not vigilantly maintained, can cause death.

What are the treatments for Cholera?

Cholera can be treated successfully with antibiotics and most importantly, rehydration. To aid in rehydration, it is recommended to carry oral rehydration salts while traveling.

How can you prevent getting infected with Cholera?

While a vaccine is available to combat Cholera, the primary forms of prevention center around good hygiene and conducting safe food and water practices.

Cholera Symptoms

Patients infected with Cholera show different symptoms depending on the strain of the bacterium contracted.
Most patients do not show any symptoms, but are instead carriers, with the potential to infect others if proper hygiene is not followed.
Some patients exhibit mild symptoms of Cholera, with mild to moderate diarrhea and vomiting.
More severe infections cause frequent watery diarrhea, which causes rapid dehydration. If rehydration measures are not maintained, death can occur.
If left untreated, death results in approximately 50% of the cases. If treated, the fatality rate drops below 1%.

Cholera Prevention

There is a vaccine which can prevent Cholera, but this is not considered the primary preventative measure. Please consult your local travel medicine center for further advice.

Cholera Preventative Measures include:

  • Staying in urban areas in resorts or business-class hotels
  • Staying in areas with good sewage sanitation and water filtration
  • Wash your hands before eating and drinking
  • Avoid swimming in polluted or contaminated water
  • Brush your teeth with purified or bottled water
  • Carry Oral Rehydration Salts in case of infection (available at your local pharmacy)
  • Take care in sourcing food and drink:
    • Buy bottled water or bring water to a 1 minute rolling boil before drinking
    • Avoid ice or popsicles
    • Eat foods which have been thoroughly cooked and still hot
    • Avoid raw vegetables that cannot be peeled
    • Peel vegetables and fruits yourself and discard the peelings
    • Avoid food and beverages from street vendors or market stalls
    • Avoid shellfish if taken from sewage-polluted areas
    • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products