What is Cholera?
- Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholera and is spread by drinking or eating contaminated water or food. Cholera occurs most commonly in regions of the world where there is inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene, overcrowding and a lack of safe water and food.
- The risk of cholera can increase following disaster situations due to the disruption of water and sanitation systems or the displacement of populations to overcrowded camps.
- While it is rare in Canada and the US, globally, cholera cases have increased steadily since 2005 and according to the WHO (World Health Organization) cholera most commonly occurs in Africa, Asia, and the Carribean.
- Cholera can be life-threatening but it is easily prevented and treated
Signs & Symptoms
- Most infected people do not show any symptoms.
- Symptoms usually include mild to moderate diarrhea with or without vomiting.
- Can take from a few hours to five days to appear.
- In more severe cases, it causes frequent watery diarrhea which can lead to severe dehydration and even death if not treated promptly.
Risk to Travelers
Most travellers are at low risk even in countries where cholera outbreaks occur, if they practise good personal hygiene and safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk include those who drink or eat contaminated water or food, in particular undercooked or raw seafood such as shellfish and fish. (especially in areas where sewage is not disposed of safely and sanitation standards are limited).
Humanitarian relief workers and those visiting areas of high risk with limited access to safe water and food are also at increased risk.
Practise safe food and water precautions
Consider getting vaccinated. Higher risk travellers should consult a health care provider to discuss the benefits of getting vaccinated before travel.
The most important treatment is rehydration. Carry oral rehydration salts while travelling.
In severe cases, antibiotics can help shorten the duration of the illness.
If you feel you have symptoms( especially severe diarrhea and vomiting) on return, see your health care provider.