Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Cholera causes severe diarrhoea and can eventually lead to death through severe dehydration. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days when you will experience very bad, watery diarrhoea and can loose up to a litre an hour which is why rehydration is very important at this stage. The infection is spread through infected food and water or from one infected person to another.
Where does cholera occur? Today, cholera is present in many countries. New outbreaks can occur sporadically in any part of the world where water supplies, sanitation, food safety and hygiene practices are inadequate.This includes parts of South America, Africa and parts of the Middle East and India, and in Asia.
How is cholera transmitted? Cholera is spread by contaminated water and food. Sudden large outbreaks are usually caused by a contaminated water most often in parts of the world that have poor water supply. It is very rare that cholera is transmitted from person to person contact. Common sources of infection are raw or poorly cooked seafood, raw fruit and vegetables, and other foods that have been contaminated during preparation or storage.
What are the symptoms of cholera? People with cholera may experience mild to severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. Fever is usually absent. Some people don`t experience symptoms at all.
How is cholera diagnosed? Cholera is diagnosed by isolating the bacteria from an infected person's stool.
How can cholera be prevented? Only drink boiled water or water that has been sterilised or treated in another way. The best thing to drink while traveling is bottled water but make sure the cap is secure. Avoid ice where possible as it will be made from local water. Only eat food that you know has been thoroughly cooked and is still hot when served. Avoid raw seafood and any other raw foods and fruits and vegetables unless you have washed and peeled them yourself.
What is the treatment for cholera? Severe cases of the disease must be treated in hospital. It is vital that any fluid lost is replaced immediately. To speed up recovery the infected person will be given a course of antibiotics such as doxycyline.
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