What is cholera?

Cholera is a severe bacterial condition characterized by diarrhea and dehydration. The condition is spread via contaminated water. For severe cases, prompt treatment is required since death can occur in hours.

The bacteria Vibrio cholerae is responsible for causing cholera. The deadly effect is due to the potent toxin called CTX which is released by the bacteria in the small intestine. This toxin disrupts with the regular flow of sodium and chloride once it binds to the intestinal walls.

Contaminated water is the main source of cholera infection. Uncooked vegetables, fruits and other foods might also contain the bacteria that causes cholera.


The condition typically causes minor to moderate diarrhea.

Risk factors

Any individual can become sick, but certain factors increase the risk such as:

  • Unclean or unsanitary conditions
  • Sick household members
  • Consumption of raw shellfish
  • Type O blood

What are the indications of cholera?

Most individuals who were exposed to cholera do not become sick. Once infected, an individual can continue to shed the bacteria in the stool for 7-14 days. The condition typically causes minor to moderate diarrhea.

The common symptoms of cholera include:

  • Nausea
  • Abrupt onset of diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Mild to severe dehydration


If an individual has symptoms of cholera, a doctor must be seen right away. The doctor will confirm the condition by identifying the presence of the bacteria in a stool sample.

The commonly used methods to manage cholera include:

  • Rehydration using intravenous fluids
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Zinc supplements
  • Antibiotics

These treatment options add fluids to the body to keep it properly hydrated. They also help shorten the length of time of diarrhea.


When travelling to an area where cholera is prevalent, the chances of acquiring the disease is reduced if the following are observed:

  • Regularly wash hands
  • Avoid dairy products
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water
  • Avoid raw shellfish and food
  • Only eat raw vegetables and fruits that you have peeled yourself