The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


Cholera in Africa and Western Asia (Yemen)

Updated June 4, 2018

Updated: May 10, 2018

May 10, 2018: Republic of Congo was added to the list of countries experiencing an outbreak of cholera.
Original publication date: September 1, 2016

What is Cholera?
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection that is caused by ingesting food or water that has been contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Cholera causes watery diarrhea and can quickly lead to severe dehydration. In severe cases it can lead to death if left untreated.

Cholera is endemic in many countries around the world. Every year there are between 1.3 to 4 million cases of cholera, with between 20 000 to 140 000 deaths. Travellers to tourist areas that practise safe food and water precautions and good hand hygiene are at low risk.

Why should you be concerned?
The World Health Organization has confirmed outbreaks of cholera in the following countries:

Democratic Republic of Congo
Republic of Congo
How can you protect yourself from Cholera?
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Find out if there is a risk of cholera in the country you are visiting.

See Travel advice and advisories by country
Select your destination and click “Go!”
Click on the Health tab
Click on the Food/Water tab
Eat and drink safely.

Always take precautions with food and water to avoid getting sick.
Only eat foods that are well cooked and served hot.
Drink water that has been boiled, disinfected or is in a commercially sealed bottle.
Practice good hand hygiene:

Wash your hands frequently
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do this as often as possible, including before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Always keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you when you travel.
Consider getting vaccinated.

Higher risk travellers may benefit from vaccination and should consult with a health care provider to discuss this option. Travellers at higher risk for cholera include:
travellers visiting areas with limited access to clean water, who do not follow proper hand hygiene precautions, or eat raw or poorly cooked food
aid or humanitarian workers
If you develop severe diarrhea and/or vomiting while travelling or after you return to Canada:

Seek medical attention immediately.
Tell your health care provider where you have been travelling or living.
Drink fluids and use oral rehydration salts to prevent dehydration.
Infants, young children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at greatest risk of dehydration.
Tell a flight attendant or border services officer if you are ill while returning to Canada. They will notify a quarantine officer who can assess your symptoms and refer you to medical care.
Registration of Canadians Abroad
Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home

Related links
About cholera
Travel Advice and Advisories
Eat and drink safely
Sick when travelling?
Sick after travelling?
Other Resources
World Health Organization – Cholera
Regional Office for Africa, World Health Organization – Weekly bulletin on outbreaks and other emergencies

Date modified: 2017-04-05