Caused by a bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae, Cholera is an acute illness affecting the intestine.
It is a severe infection of the gut. The person gets extensively dehydrated and it can lead to death if left untreated. It is a major concern in developing nations and WHO reports about 100,000 – 120,000 deaths every year due to Cholera. Most often people infected show no symptoms or very mild symptoms; however in cases of severity necessary action is to be taken immediately.
The bacterium produces a deadly toxin, CTX that binds to the intestinal walls and interferes with normal flow of sodium and chloride. Due to this there is excessive fluid loss leading to dehydration.
Though it is a life threatening disease, it can be easily prevented and treated.
How does a person get infected with Cholera?
Ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae leads to Cholera. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person that contaminates water and/or food. When a person consumes the contaminated food or water, the bacteria release a toxin in the intestines that produces severe diarrhea.
It does not spread directly from one person to another and therefore there is no transmission of the infection due to casual contact.
Most common sources of cholera infection are stagnant water, raw or under cooked sea food, raw and unpeeled fruits or vegetables in areas where cholera is widespread.
Knowing the Symptoms of Cholera Helps Treat it Fast!
The onset of cholera is usually sudden, with incubation periods ranging from six hours to five days.
Common symptoms of cholera can include:
- sudden onset of diarrhea
- mild to severe dehydration
- leg cramps
- low blood pressure
- irregular heart beat
- rapid pulse
Who is at risk for Cholera?
Individuals living especially in areas of the world where cholera is present are at risk for cholera. Also, those living in or traveling to places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene are at a greater risk.
Treatment for Cholera
Because death from cholera is a consequence of dehydration, it is treated using oral rehydration therapy i.e. immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. A prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts is to be mixed with water and must be consumed in large amounts. Owing to prompt rehydration, the percentage of people dying reduced drastically. Along with antibiotics course to diminish the severity of the illness receiving rehydration is a must in the treatment.
Cholera is a preventable disease provided that safe water and proper sanitation are made available. If you live in an area where Cholera has become endemic, following simple precautions becomes necessary.
- Drink only potable water – boil water from suspicious sources before drinking
- It is best if you can stick to bottled and sealed beverages
- Wash your hands well with soap before every meal
- Avoid eating raw and undercooked meats and seafood or unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid street vendor food, if possible
- Stay away from fruits that can’t be peeled, such as grapes and berries
The vaccine for cholera offers only limited immunity.
Improvement in water supply, hygienic surroundings, food safety and community awareness of preventive measures are some of the means of preventing cholera.