Cholera Common Causes, Prevention, Symptoms And Treatment


Cholera is a bacterial disease that is usually spread by contaminated water. Acute diarrhoea and dehydration brought on by cholera. Even in previously healthy people, cholera can be lethal if ignored within a few hours.

In industrialized nations, cholera has been all but eradicated thanks to modern sewage and water treatment. However, Haiti, Southeast Asia, and Africa continue to struggle with cholera. When people are forced to live in crowded conditions without proper sanitation due to poverty, conflict, or natural calamities, the likelihood of a cholera pandemic is at its maximum.

It is simple to treat cholera. With a quick and low-cost rehydration method, death from severe dehydration can be avoided.


The Vibrio cholerae bacterium causes the illness known as cholera. A toxin that the bacteria in the small intestine create is what causes the disease's lethal consequences. Due to the toxin, the body secretes large volumes of water, which causes diarrhoea and a quick loss of electrolytes and fluids.

Even while not everyone exposed to cholera germs becomes ill, they are still passed in stools, contaminating food and water supplies.

The major cause of cholera infection is contaminated water sources. The bacteria are present in:

Either well or surface water. Public wells that have been tainted are typically the source of large-scale cholera epidemics. Those who live in small spaces with poor sanitation are more at risk.

Seafood. Eating raw seafood, particularly shellfish, from specific regions might expose you to cholera pathogens. Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico has been connected to the bulk of recent cholera outbreaks in the US.

Uncooked fruits and vegetables. Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables are commonly a cause of cholera infection in areas where the disease is endemic. Produce in the field may get contaminated in underdeveloped nations by uncomposted manure fertilisers and irrigation water containing raw sewage.

Grains. In regions where the disease is prevalent, contaminated grains like rice and millet can contain cholera germs for several hours at room temperature after being cooked.

How to check if you have Cholera?

Cholera danger is minimal in developed countries. If you abide by food safety regulations, you will not likely get the infection even in locations where it exists. Worldwide cholera outbreaks are still happening. Consult your doctor if you get severe diarrhoea after travelling to a cholera-endemic area.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have diarrhoea, especially if it is severe, and you believe you may have been exposed to cholera. A medical emergency requiring rapid attention is severe dehydration.

Risk Factors

All people are susceptible to cholera, with the exception of newborns who acquire immunity through nursing mothers who have already contracted the disease. However, several variables may increase your susceptibility to the illness or your likelihood of experiencing severe signs and symptoms.

Cholera risk factors consist of:

Bad circumstances for health. When a hygienic environment, including a reliable water supply, is difficult to maintain, cholera is more likely to spread. Such circumstances are typical in refugee camps, underdeveloped nations, and regions affected by starvation, conflict, or natural catastrophes.

Stomach acid that is reduced or absent. Normal stomach acid frequently acts as a defence against infection because cholera germs cannot thrive in an acidic environment. However, those with low stomach acids levels, such as young infants, senior citizens, and those who use antacids, H-2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors – who lack this defence — are more susceptible to contracting cholera.

Domestic exposure. If you share a residence with a choleric, your chance of contracting the illness is enhanced.

O blood type. For unknown reasons, persons with type O blood are twice as prone to contracting cholera as persons with other blood types.

Undercooked or raw shellfish. Although widespread cholera epidemics no longer occur in industrialised countries, your risk is considerably increased by consuming shellfish from seas that are known to have the germs.


The majority of people who are exposed to the cholera bacteria (Vibrio cholerae) do not become sick and are unaware that they have been infected. However, individuals can still spread the disease to others through tainted water since they retain cholera germs in their faeces for seven to 14 days.

Most cholera cases that result in symptoms cause mild to severe diarrhoea, which is sometimes difficult to distinguish from diarrhoea brought on by other conditions. Others get more severe cholera symptoms, typically within a few days after infection.

Cholera infection symptoms might include:

  • Diarrhoea. As much as a quart (or one litre) of fluid per hour might be dangerously lost due to the fast onset of diarrhoea associated with cholera.
  • Cholera-related diarrhoea frequently appears pale and milky, similar to water that has had rice boiled in it.
  • Vomiting and nauseous. Particularly in the initial stages of cholera, vomiting can linger for hours.
  • Dehydration. Mild to severe dehydration might appear hours after the first signs of cholera. A 10% or more reduction in body weight is a sign of severe dehydration.

Cholera dehydration can cause irritation, weariness, sunken eyes, a dry mouth, intense thirst, dry, shrivelled skin that takes a long time to recover after being squeezed, little to no urination, low blood pressure, and irregular heartbeats.

Minerals in your blood that keep the balance of fluids in your body might be rapidly lost as a result of dehydration. We refer to this as an electrolyte imbalance.

Unbalanced electrolytes

Unbalanced electrolytes can cause significant symptoms such as:

Muscle pain. The rapid loss of salts like potassium, sodium, and chloride causes this.

Shock. One of the most severe side effects of dehydration is this. Low blood volume results in a drop in blood pressure and a reduction in the quantity of  oxygen in your body, which is when it happens. Severe hypovolemic shock can result in death in minutes if left untreated.


  • Verify the safety of the water you use and consume. 
  • Use bottled water to create ice for drinks, wash and prepare meals, and brush your teeth.
  • Use safe water and soap to often wash your hands before, during, and after meal preparation.
  • Clean up responsibly.


Cholera has to be treated quickly since it can cause death in a matter of hours.

Rehydration. Utilizing oral rehydration salts (ORS), a simple rehydration solution, the objective is to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes. The ORS solution may be created using boiling or bottled water and is available as a powder.

About 50% of cholera patients die if they are not rehydrated. Fatalities decrease to fewer than 1% after therapy.

Intravenous liquids. The majority of cholera patients may be healed by oral rehydration alone, but those who are extremely dehydrated may additionally require intravenous fluids.

Antibiotics. Some antibiotics help lessen cholera-related diarrhoea and minimise how long it lasts in critically unwell persons, while they are not essential for cholera therapy.

Supplements with zinc. According to research, zinc may lessen diarrhoea.

Complications of Cholera

Death from cholera can occur suddenly. Rapid loss of significant volumes of fluids and electrolytes can, in the worst scenarios, result in death within hours. In less severe cases, those who do not get care might pass away from dehydration and shock hours to days after their initial cholera symptoms occur.

The greatest cholera effects include shock and severe dehydration, although there can also be other issues, like:

Hypoglycemia is a state of low blood sugar. When people are too sick to eat, dangerously low levels of blood sugar (glucose), the body's primary energy source, might happen. The risk of this consequence, which can result in seizures, unconsciousness, and even death, is greatest in children.

Low amounts of potassium. Potassium is one of the several minerals lost by cholera patients in their faeces. Quite low Potassium levels are dangerous and interfere with nerve and heart function.

Kidney disease. A potentially fatal illness results from the body's inability to filter excess fluids, certain electrolytes, and wastes when the kidneys lose their capacity to do so. Kidney failure frequently occurs in cholera patients alongside shock. 


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Page last reviewed: May 25, 2023

Next review due: May 25, 2025

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