Cholera is an acute disease caused by an infection of the intestines with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Every year there are 3-5 million cases of the disease worldwide.

The infection is often mild or even without symptoms, but sometimes the patient’s condition can deteriorate very quickly. Approximately 5% of those infected develop the disease in its severe form, characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting and leg muscle cramps.

In such cases, the rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

The bacterium Vibrio cholerae is usually found in water or food that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person.

The bacteria appear most often where drinking water is not treated properly or becomes contaminated, for example due to heavy rainfall or flooding or sanitation authorities fail to ensure regular water quality control.

At risk are also areas where there is no sewage system and there is groundwater, the level of which rises significantly, especially in spring. And this creates prerequisites for the flooding of the septic tanks and the outflow of the return water on the streets of the populated areas.

The bacterium can also survive in low-salinity rivers and coastal waters. Consuming raw seafood is risky, as several cases of cholera have been reported in the US after eating raw shellfish caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

It usually takes from a few hours to 5 days after exposure for the bacteria to cause symptoms of the disease. Most often, clinical manifestations appear 2-3 days after exposure.

What should you do if you suspect you may be infected?

You should seek medical attention immediately. It is essential that the fluids lost in diarrhea are restored to your body.

Treatment of cholera

The disease is successfully treated with the immediate replacement of fluids and salts lost from the body. Patients are treated with an oral rehydration solution, in which a prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts is put into water and drunk in large quantities.

This solution is used all over the world to treat the disease. But in more severe cases, fluids are replaced by intravenous infusion. With timely rehydration, less than 1% of patients die.

Antibiotics such as tetracycline or doxycycline shorten the duration of diarrhea and so fluid losses are reduced. Ciprofloxacin and erythromycin also can be used for a few days. Although antibiotics reduce the severity of the illness, they are not as important as rehydration.

Is it possible to be infected by another sick person?

The disease is not spread directly from person to person. Therefore, daily contact with a sick person is not associated with the risk of getting sick .

How to prevent contracting the disease?

The risk of exposure to the bacteria is very low for people visiting areas where there is an outbreak of the disease, when very basic precautions are taken, infection is unlikely:

Only bottled, boiled or chemically treated water and bottled or canned carbonated drinks should be drunk. Before starting the use of bottled drinks, one should make sure that the seal of the bottle has not been broken.
To disinfect drinking water, it should be boiled for 1 minute or filtered by adding 2 drops of bleach or ½ tablet of iodine to 1 liter of water.

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