Cholera is a contagious intestinal disease with severe and prolonged diarrhoea. It is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and can be spread through contaminated food and contaminated water. The bacterium produces a harmful substance, a so-called toxin, which causes leakage from the intestine of fluid and important body salts. The cholera bacterium can survive for a long time in cold water. The infected person can get everything from mild symptoms to large amounts of water-thin stools with significant fluid loss. Some with severe disease symptoms develop kidney failure. A relatively large amount of bacteria is required to cause disease.
Cholera can cause severe fluid loss
The incubation period is normally 2-3 days, but it also happens that people become ill only a few hours after they have been infected. Typical of the disease is that diarrhoea predominates while vomiting, fever and abdominal pain are more uncommon, especially at the beginning of the illness. Due to the fluid loss, patients with severe symptoms may show signs of dehydration with dehydrated skin and sunken eyes. Cholera has always been the cause of major epidemics. Today, Haiti and Yemen, among others, have been affected by major outbreaks. Some parts of Iraq have also been affected. Cholera outbreaks also occur at regular intervals in several African countries and in parts of Southeast Asia.
The most important treatment once a person has been infected is to replace the fluid losses and to restore the salt balance in the body. In the event of epidemics, there is a high risk of mortality if those who have fallen ill do not receive treatment.
The risk of cholera is greater in areas with primitive conditions with a lack of modern water systems and sewage systems.
There is an effective cholera vaccine that is taken in two doses before departure. Children 2-5 years are recommended an extra dose to get adequate protection. The cholera vaccine also provides some protection against tourist diarrhoea caused by another bacterium (ETEC), but then the protection is not as extensive.
As a preventive measure against infection, you should also be careful with hand hygiene.