CHOLERA

 

What is cholera?

Cholera is a bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. It is caused by a germ called Vibrio cholerae. Although only a few cases are recognized in the United States each year, epidemic levels of cholera have recently been reported in parts of Central and South America.

 

Who gets cholera?

Cholera affects all ages and both sexes.  Movement of population(eg. pilgrimages, marriages, fairs and festivals) results in increased risk of exposure to infection.

 

How is the germ spread?

The cholera germ is passed in the stools. It is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated by the fecal waste of an infected person. This occurs more often in underdeveloped countries lacking adequate water supplies and proper sewage disposal.

 

What are the symptoms of cholera?

People exposed to cholera may experience mild to severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. Fever is usually absent.

 

How soon do symptoms appear?

The symptoms may appear from a few hours to five days after exposure.

 

What is the treatment for cholera?

Because of the rapid dehydration that may result from severe diarrhea, replacement of fluids by mouth or by the intravenous route is critical. Antibiotics, such as tetracycline, are also used to shorten the duration of diarrhea and shedding of the germs in the feces.

 

Is there a vaccine for cholera?

A vaccine is available. However, the vaccine offers only partial protection (50%) for a short duration (two to six months) . The  use of the current vaccine cannot be justified as they are of no value in controlling epidemics.

 

How can cholera be prevented?

The single most important preventive measure is to avoid consuming uncooked foods or water.  The next important preventive measure is sanitary disposal of excreta and handwashing with soap after defecation.