What is Cholera?
Cholera is an illness that is caused by the infection of intestine with the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae. An estimated 2.9 million cases and around 95,000 deaths due to Cholera are reported each year. Approximately 10% of those infected will have a severe case of the disease characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. Without treatment this 10% can die within hours.
In the 19th Century, Cholera was spread around the world from it’s original source in the Ganges Delta. Subsequently, six major pandemics developed and killed millions around the world. Currently cholera is an endemic in many developing countries.
Where is Cholera found?
Cholera is usually found in sources of water or food that are contaminated with feces. It’s likely to spread due to lack of proper sanitation, poor hygiene, and lack of water treatment. Another source of Cholera is found in environments with brackish waters. Also raw shellfish can contain cholera and a number of cases within the U.S. have been caused by the ingestion of raw shellfish.
What are the symptoms of Cholera?
Symptoms of Cholera can take between 12 hours to 5 days to show. Cholera symptoms usually start with severe watery diarrhea which then can escalate to vomiting and if left untreated can cause death within a few hours. Many people who are infected with Vibrio Cholerae usually don’t develop any symptoms, but the bacteria is present within their feces one to ten days after infection. This bacteria could possibly infect others when released into the environment.
Cholera is an easily treatable disease, and the majority of those infected are successfully through oral re-hydration solution (ORS). Those who experience more severe symptoms are given rapid administration of intravenous fluids and are given antibiotics to reduce symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Access to immediate treatment during a cholera outbreak is essential as it reduces the fatality rate to under 1%.