symptoms of cholera

Cholera: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

With the onset of monsoon, there are various diseases that come along and prove to be a health menace. The outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid is common  during this season affecting the areas with poor sanitation and lack of sewage system.

The number of cholera cases increases with ongoing rainy season due to lack of clean water and poor sanitation. However, the disease is preventable and treatable, but slow progress in providing access to healthcare imposes a heavy burden on society.

Let's know more about the disease, causes, symptoms and treatment:

What is Cholera?


Cholera is an infectious bacterial disease caused by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The disease is typically spread through contaminated water and causes severe watery diarrhea and dehydration.

According to World Health Organization, at least 150,000 cases are reported every year. It affects nearly 3-5 million people, causing 100,000-130,000 deaths a year as of 2010 worldwide. The affected areas include parts of Africa, south Asia, and Latin America.

The number of cases are more in times of flood and war, as the bacterium is most active during this period since these events reduces the availability of clean water. Thus, the disease is commonly found in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine.



This water-borne disease is caused by a bacterium Vibrio Cholerae usually transmitted by contaminated water and food. The toxin CTX produced by this bacteria in small intestine obstructs with the normal flow of sodium and chloride. Due to the deadly effect of this toxin, your body begins to secrete large amounts of water that lead to rapid loss of fluids and diarrhea.

The disease is spread by:

  • drinking contaminated water
  • eating food made of dirty water, soiled hands
  • eating fish from contaminated waters.
  • Some common sources are:
  • Municipal water supplies
  • Street side foods and drinks
  • Fish raw or undercooked in polluted water


Most people exposed to cholera never become ill and show minimal or no symptoms. However, the symptoms begin after few hours or days after infection. Once you get infected, you need to take care as it results causing severe watery diarrhea that leads to dehydration.

Usually, the dehydration is severe and may cause tiredness, dry mouth, wrinkled skin, extreme thirst, less urine output, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps and low blood pressure. It also leads to loss of minerals in your blood causing electrolyte imbalance that eventually lead to shock or death.

Common symptoms of cholera include:

  • sudden onset of diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • mild to severe dehydration
  • muscle cramps
  • reduced urination
  • weakness

The main symptom is watery diarrhea which causes rapid drain of vital fluids, salt and minerals. The watery stool may occur 1 to 3 days after infection and your body may lose up to a liter of liquid in an hour.

You should seek medical help immediately, if you develop watery diarrhea along with vomiting. Since, the disease is treatable so it's very important to get cholera treatment right away.

Treatment and Prevention


Though there is a vaccine available for cholera, the World Health Organization don't recommend it. As it may last only for few months and may not protect half of the people who receive it.

Following these precautions can help you to prevent cholera:

  • Make sure the water you use is safe for drinking, preparing food, washing your face, utensils, fruits and vegetables. Use bottled, boiled or chemically treated water.
  • Avoid raw foods including unpeeled fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized milk, raw meat.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish.
  • Keep flies away from food.
  • Avoid food and drinks from local vendors on streets.
  • Wash your hands well with soap before you eat anything.


Immediate rehydration is the easiest treatment for cholera as it replaces the fluids and salts lost through diarrhoea. Oral or intravenous fluid is recommended for treating it. Antibiotics can reduce the duration and severity of the disease.

Zinc supplements may decrease and shorten the duration of diarrhea in children with cholera.

Though, cholera vaccines are available but don't work very well. Your doctor may not recommend you for vaccination. But, if you’ve already had the vaccine and travelling to a country where the risk of cholera is greatest then you may need a second dose or booster of the vaccine.

Since it is a water-borne disease, you can simply protect yourself and your family by using boiled or filtered and chemically disinfected water. Also, you can decrease the risk of infection following proper food safety practices and maintaining proper hygiene.

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