Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea.
Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The bacteria releases a toxin that causes increased release of water from cells in the intestines, which produces severe diarrhea.
Cholera occurs in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine. Common locations for cholera include:
South and Central America
People get the infection by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
A type of vibrio bacteria also has been associated with
Risk factors include:
Exposure to contaminated or untreated drinking water
Living in or traveling to areas where there is cholera
- Dry mucus membranes or dry mouth
Dry skin Excessive thirst
- Glassy or sunken eyes
- Lack of tears
Lethargy Low urine output
dehydration Rapid pulse(heart rate)
- Sunken “soft spots” (fontanelles) in infants
- Watery diarrhea that starts suddenly and has a “fishy” odor
Note: Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.
Exams and Tests
Tests that may be done include:
and gram stain
The goal of treatment is to replace fluid and
The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed an oral rehydration solution that is cheaper and easier to use than the typical IV fluid. This solution is now being used internationally.
Severe dehydration can cause death. Given adequate fluids, most people will make a full recovery.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if :
You develop severe watery diarrhea
You have signs of dehydration, including:
Reduced or no urine
Unusual sleepiness or tiredness
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend cholera vaccines for most travelers. (Such a vaccine is not available in the United States.)
Travelers should always take precautions with food and drinking water, even if vaccinated.
When outbreaks of cholera occur, efforts should be directed toward establishing clean water, food, and sanitation, because vaccination is not very effective in managing outbreaks.