The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Cholera in Yemen

Watch – Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

What is the current situation?

There is a widespread cholera outbreak in Yemen. From October 2016 to June 2019, more than 1.8 million cholera cases and over 3,500 deaths have been reported. Twenty-one of the country’s 23 governorates have reported suspected cases.

Public health officials are responding by establishing treatment facilities, training healthcare workers, providing medical supplies, purifying water, and deploying staff trained to detect and respond to cases quickly.

What is cholera?

Cholera is a disease spread by drinking water or eating food contaminated with cholera bacteria. Severe cholera is characterized by large amounts of watery diarrhea, often described as “rice-water stool” because it can have a pale, milky appearance. It can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. If untreated, the loss of fluid can be deadly. But simple treatment, including replacing lost body fluids, can lower the risk of death to less than 1%.

What can travelers do to prevent cholera?

Because it is spread through contaminated food and water, cholera is easily prevented by sticking to safe eating and drinking habits and regularly washing hands.

A cholera vaccine (Vaxchora, PaxVax Corporation) prevents diarrhea caused by the most common type of cholera bacteria. This vaccine is available in the United States and is recommended for adults traveling to areas with active cholera transmission, such as Yemen. Avoiding unsafe food and water even after cholera vaccination will also help prevent cholera and many other diarrheal infections. Travelers should discuss the following questions with a healthcare provider when considering the vaccine:

  • How common is cholera where I am going?
  • How common is cholera in travelers to this area?
  • What would put me at risk for cholera?
  • Will I be able to receive rapid treatment (if needed) at my destination?

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