Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection that occurs when someone consumes contaminated food or water with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. You can also find this cholera bacteria in salty rivers and coastal waters. There are rare cases of some people being infected with cholera from eating raw or undercooked shellfish.
Cholera is still a worldwide threat to public health, demonstrating inequity and a lack of social development. Studies show that annually, there are 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths globally caused by the infection.
Cholera is a severe disease resulting in severe acute watery diarrhea and dehydration. Victims show symptoms between 12 hours and five days after taking contaminated food or water. It affects both children and adults and can be deadly within hours if untreated.
Most individuals infected with Vibrio cholerae do not show symptoms, although the bacteria live in their feces for 1–10 days after infection. Then, the bacteria return to the environment and infect other people.
Fortunately, it is usually predictable and preventable. It can entirely be eliminated if there is consistent access to clean water and sanitation facilities, including good hygiene practices, for the whole population.
Major Symptoms Cholera
A cholera infection can be mild without symptoms, yet roughly 10% of infected people show severe symptoms 12 hours to five days after ingesting the bacteria. These symptoms include diarrhea, watery poop, intense thirst, reduced urine (pee), muscle cramps, restlessness or irritability, vomiting, and weakness.
If you notice any cholera symptoms, quickly consult a healthcare provider. Mild symptoms may independently be resolved in a few days, but dehydration can soon kill such a person. Early treatment can save a life.
Diagnosis Of Cholera
First, a healthcare provider will ask you to provide a stool sample to diagnose cholera. You either poop into a collection cup or bag or a healthcare provider will insert a swab into your rectum (the opening where poop is expelled).
The sample is taken to a laboratory for experts to examine it under a microscope to detect the bacterium V. cholerae. Some areas where cholera is prevalent have access to a “dipstick” tool to test a stool sample quickly.
Prevention Tips For Cholera
People not living in or visiting places with poor sanitation can hardly be infected with cholera. However, if you live in such areas, these tips can help prevent infections:
- Don’t use tap water, water fountains, or ice cubes for drinking, washing dishes, preparing food, or brushing your teeth.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood.
- Only drink bottled, canned, boiled, or treated water with specific chemicals. Also, avoid drinking from a bottle or can with a broken seal.
- Don’t eat prepackaged foods or ensure other foods are freshly cooked and served hot.
- Try to disinfect your water by boiling it for at least one minute, pouring half an iodine tablet or two drops of household bleach into each liter of water, or using chlorine tablets.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables with clean water.
- Before handling and consuming food and using the bathroom, don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and clean water. If you don’t have clean water and soap, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Dangers Of Not Treating Cholera
Diarrhea and vomiting from cholera can make your body lose vital substances like electrolytes, fluids, sodium, and potassium, resulting in dehydration and dry mucous membranes (like in the eyes, nose, and mouth), rapid heart rate, hypokalemia (low potassium levels in the blood), hypotension (low blood pressure), and lower natural stretchiness in the skin.
Moreover, untreated, severe dehydration from cholera can cause kidney failure, shock, coma, and death.
Treatment Options For Cholera
The most vital part of treating cholera is preventing or reversing dehydration. Cholera patients should quickly replace the lost fluids and salts. A healthcare provider may recommend:
- Oral rehydration solution (ORS): You may have to drink much of a prepackaged mix of sugar, salts, and water.
- Intravenous fluids: In cases of severe dehydration, a healthcare provider pumps fluids directly into your veins with a needle.
Other treatment options are antibiotics, zinc in children below five years,
Cholera is a sudden sickness when someone accidentally swallows Vibrio cholerae (V. cholerae) bacteria through contaminated food and water. Then, the bacteria infect the person’s intestines to cause severe diarrhea and dehydration, which may cause death. Its symptoms include diarrhea, intense thirst, lower amounts of urine, vomiting, etc. Fortunately, it can be diagnosed, prevented, and treated.