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Cholera is an acute infectious disease of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is usually spread through contaminated water and can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.


Most people who get the disease ingest the organisms through food or water sources contaminated with Vibrio cholerae.

Contaminated water supplies are the main source of cholera infection but people can also contract cholera from surface or well water, raw shellfish, grains, uncooked fruits and vegetables.


The symptoms and signs of cholera are a watery diarrhea that often contains flecks of whitish material that are about the size of pieces of rice. This diarrhea has a “fishy smell and the volume of watery feaces excreted can be quite voluminous.

Only about 10 percent of people infected with cholera develop the most commons signs and symptoms of cholera, usually within a few days of infection.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Thirst
  • Muscle cramps

While children with cholera have the same signs and symptoms as adults, some may also experience:

  • Extreme drowsiness or even coma
  • Fever
  • Convulsions
  • Restlessness or irritability


Left untreated, cholera can be fatal in a matter of hours even in previously healthy people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC in the US  recommends rehydration with ORS (oral rehydration salts) fluids as the ‘cornerstone’ treatment for cholera.

CDC   Cholera   Treatment   Rehydration Therapy

More severe cholera infections may require antibiotics as these help reduce fluid rehydration volumes and speed recovery.


You can reduce you and your family’s risk of contracting cholera by:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after using the toilet and before handling food.
  • Drinking only safe water, including bottled water or water you’ve boiled or disinfected yourself.
  • Eating food that’s completely cooked and hot and avoiding eating road side/’mama put’ food.
  • Eating only fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself, such as bananas, oranges and avocados.

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