Cholera

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

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, usually with immunologic tests.
  • 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.
  • Cholera can be prevented with appropriate measures such as safe drinking water and noncontaminated foods; some protection can be obtained from oral vaccines while avoiding areas where cholera commonly occurs or has had a recent outbreak.

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Cholera - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms experienced with cholera in you or someone you know?
Cholera - Treatments Question: What treatment has been effective for your cholera?
Cholera - Diagnosis Question: What types of tests or exams led to a diagnosis of cholera in you or someone you know?
Cholera - Prevention in Community Question: If you live in a community that experiences cholera outbreaks, how do you prevent an infection?

What Are the Symptoms of Cholera?

Cholera infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in 20 (5%) infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

How Long After Infection Do the Symptoms Appear?

It can take anywhere from a few hours to 5 days for symptoms to appear after infection. Symptoms typically appear in 2-3 days.

SOURCE:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention