What is Cholera

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes can be severe.
What are the symptoms of Cholera?
Approximately 1 in 20 infected persons has severe disease characterized by:
  • profuse watery diarrhea,
  • vomiting,
  • leg cramps.
These people also get, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
How can someone get Cholera?
A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces (stool) of an infected person. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.
The cholera bacterium may also live in the environment in brackish rivers and coastal waters. Shellfish eaten raw have been a source of cholera, and a few persons in the United States have contracted cholera after eating raw or undercooked shellfish from the Gulf of Mexico. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another; therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.
What should travelers do to avioid getting Cholera (in the U.S)?

The risk for cholera is very low for U.S. travelers visiting areas with epidemic cholera. When simple precautions are observed, contracting the disease is unlikely.
All travelers to areas where cholera has occurred should observe the following recommendations:
  • Drink only water that has been boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine. Other beverages include tea's and coffee made with boiled water and carbonated, bottled beverages with no ice.
  • Eat only foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruit that you have peeled yourself.
  • Avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish, including ceviche.
  • Make sure all vegetables are cooked, avoid salads.
  • Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors.
  • Do not bring perishable seafood back to the United States.
A simple rule of thumb is "Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it."
Is a Vaccine available to prevent Cholera?

The Vaccination for for Cholera has been discontinued in the U.S. It has not been recommended for travelers because of the brief and incomplete immunity if offers. The vaccination for Cholera is not forced upon people.
There are Vaccines for cholera for travelers. They are not available in the United States.
How can Cholera be treated?

Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. Patients can be treated with oral rehydration solution, a prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts to be mixed with water and drunk in large amounts. This solution is used throughout the world to treat diarrhea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt rehydration, fewer than 1% of cholera patients die.
Antibiotics shorten the course and diminish the severity of the illness, but they are not as important as rehydration. Persons who develop severe diarrhea and vomiting in countries where cholera occurs should seek medical attention promptly.

Because of advanced water and sanitation systems, cholera is not a major threat in the United States; however, as a result of improved transportation, more people from the United States are traveling to parts of Africa, Asia, or Latin America, where epidemic cholera is occurring. For these people, prevention of cholera involves avoiding contaminated food and water.

Travelers who follow the usual tourist itineraries and observe food safety recommendations while traveling in countries reporting cholera have virtually no risk. Risk increases for those who drink untreated water, or eat poorly cooked or raw seafood, in disease-endemic (prevalent) areas.