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Cholera

What is Cholera?

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholera. It occurs in epidemics when conditions of poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine are present.

Cholera is a serious condition. A severe case of cholera can lead to death without immediate treatment.

Cholera is also called V. cholera and Vibrio.

What Causes Cholera?

The most common cause of cholera is by someone eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with the bacteria.

After a disaster, this is a very real danger, since regular, clean water and food supplies are often unavailable. The disease can be spread even further by infected people using already dirty water sources to clean themselves or dispose of waste.

Symptoms of Cholera

There are many symptoms of cholera. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. The most common symptoms of cholera are:

  • sudden onset of watery diarrhea, up to 1 liter (quart) per hour
  • diarrhea has a "rice water" appearance, where the stool looks like water with flecks of rice in it
  • diarrhea has a "fishy" odor
  • dehydration
  • rapid heart rate
  • dry skin
  • dry mucus membranes or dry mouth
  • excessive thirst
  • "glassy" eyes or sunken eyes
  • unusual sleepiness or tiredness
  • low urine output
  • abdominal cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Can Cholera be Prevented?

Yes. There are two vaccines that provide short-term, limited protection against the cholera bacteria. However, the vaccines are not currently available in the United States.

If you do not have access to the vaccines and you are traveling outside of the United States, take precautions with food and drinking water.

Some common precautions to take to avoid contracting cholera are:

  • Drink only water that you have boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine.
  • Eat only food that's been thoroughly cooked and is still hot, or fruit that you've peeled yourself.
  • Avoid undercooked or raw fish and shellfish.
  • Avoid raw salads and vegetables.
  • Avoid food and drinks from street vendors

Can Cholera be Treated?

Yes. It is very important to visit a doctor so cholera can be treated immediately.

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