Cholera

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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How Long Is Cholera Contagious?

A person is no longer contagious for cholera when they have no cholera symptoms and no detectable Vibrio bacteria in their stools. Cholera, in general, usually lasts about one week, unless severe symptoms develop. Although a person may be no longer contagious for cholera, the infection does not provide enough immunity to prevent the person from coming down with cholera again if reexposed to the bacteria.

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Cholera facts

  • Cholera is a disease caused by bacteria that produce a watery diarrhea that can rapidly lead to dehydration.
  • Cholera symptoms and signs include a rapid onset of copious, smelly diarrhea that resembles rice water and may lead to signs of dehydration (for example, vomiting, wrinkled skin, low blood pressure, dry mouth, rapid heart rate).
  • Cholera is most frequently transmitted by water sources contaminated with the causative bacterium Vibrio cholerae, although contaminated foods, especially raw shellfish, may also transmit the cholera-causing bacteria.
  • Cholera is presumptively diagnosed by patient history and examination of stool for rice-water appearance and presence of V. cholerae-like organisms microscopically; definitive diagnosis is done by isolation and identification of V. cholerae from stool samples.
  • The main treatment for cholera is fluid and electrolyte replacement, both oral and IV. Antibiotics usually are used in severe infections in which dehydration has occurred.
  • The prognosis of cholera ranges from excellent to poor. Rapid treatment with fluid and electrolytes result in better outcomes while people with other health problems beside cholera or those who are not rapidly replenished with fluid treatments tend to have a poorer prognosis.
  • It's possible to prevent cholera with appropriate measures such as safe drinking water and non-contaminated foods; some protection can be obtained from oral vaccines while avoiding areas where cholera commonly occurs or has had a recent outbreak.
  • In June 2016, the FDA approved an oral vaccine for use in the U.S. for travelers to cholera-endemic areas to protect them from getting cholera; this oral vaccine is about 80% effective three months after a single oral dose in adults 18-64 years old.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/16/2016

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