Definition

Cholera is a bacterial infection.

Causes

Certain bacteria cause cholera. They grow and release a toxin in the small bowel. You get it when you drink water or eat food that had contact with infected human stool.

Cholera is common in places that don’t have proper sewage treatment. Outbreaks still happen around the world.

Small Intestines
Small intestines
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Risk Factors

Cholera is more common in children aged 2-5 years. Your risk may be higher if you:

  • Live or travel to places where cholera is common
  • Are exposed to contaminated water or seafood
  • Are in blood group O

Symptoms

Some people don’t have symptoms. If they do appear, they may cause:

  • Rapid onset of lots of watery diarrhea without blood or pus
  • Thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramps

Diarrhea causes rapid fluid loss. Without care, cholera can lead to shock or death.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, and health and travel history. They may suspect cholera based on these facts and a physical exam. If needed, stool tests will confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment

The goal of care is to replace lost fluids. Rehydration solutions are available as an IV or by mouth. Antibiotics fight the infection and help you get healthy faster.

Prevention

Adults aged 18-64 years can get a vaccine. You may need it before you travel to places where cholera is common. If you don’t get the vaccine before you leave, you may have to take it when you arrive.

Also, when traveling to these places:

  • Drink only bottled or boiled water (and use it to wash your food)
  • Eat only well-cooked foods that are served hot
  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked shellfish
  • Don’t eat salads or raw vegetables that you haven’t peeled yourself
  • Don’t wash food in local water
  • Keep rehydration solution handy and use it if you get diarrhea

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