Cholera is a serious bacterial disorder that causes profuse episodes of diarrhea and dehydration. The disease usually spread via contaminated water. In severe cases, prompt treatment is needed since the possibility for death can occur within hours. Remember that this can occur even if the individual is healthy before acquiring it.
With the improvements in water treatment and sewage disposal, it helped effectively eliminate cholera in most countries all over the world. Countries affected by natural disasters, poverty and war have the highest risk for outbreaks since these conditions forces individuals to live in overcrowded areas with poor sanitation.
What are the causes?
Cholera is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholera which produces a potent toxin responsible for the deadly effects of the disease. This toxin disrupts with the normal flow of chloride and sodium once it binds to the intestinal walls. Once the bacteria adhere to the walls of the small intestines, the body starts to release large amounts of water that results to diarrhea and fast loss of salts and fluids.
A contaminated water supply is the main source of cholera. Uncooked vegetables, fruits and other food might also contain bacteria responsible for the disease. Remember that cholera is not passed from one individual to another via casual contact.
Who are at risk?
Anyone is at risk for cholera but certain factors can increase the risk. These risk factors can also increase the likelihood for developing a severe case such as the following:
- Unsanitary conditions such as contaminated water and poor sanitation
- Low level of stomach acid
- Type O blood (it is still uncertain why those who have this blood type seem to be at risk)
- Household members who are sick
- Consumption of raw shellfish (especially that live in dirty waters)
What are the indications of cholera?
Many individuals who have been exposed to cholera do not become sick. Generally, in most cases, one might not even know that he/she has been exposed. If infected, the individual can continue to shed the bacteria in the stool for 7-14 days. Take note that cholera typically causes mild to moderate diarrhea.
Common indications of cholera
- Abrupt onset of diarrhea
- Mild to severe dehydration
The dehydration is usually severe and can lead to tiredness, sunken eyes, moodiness, shriveled skin, dry mouth, reduced urine output, extreme thirst, low blood pressure and erratic heartbeat.
Dehydration can lead to loss of minerals in the blood which leads to an imbalance in the electrolytes. The initial sign of imbalance is severe muscular cramps. This can eventually progress to shock.
Diagnosis and treatment
If the symptoms of cholera are present, a doctor should be consulted. The doctor can confirm the disease by identifying the bacteria in a stool sample. The commonly used methods in managing cholera include the following:
- Oral rehydration salts
- Intravenous fluid rehydration
- Zinc supplements
Take note that these treatment measures aim to add fluids in the body to rehydrate it. Additionally, they also help cut short the time span of the diarrhea.