Cholera Outbreaks: What You Should Know

Cholera is a potentially deadly waterborne disease that has plagued humanity for centuries. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into what cholera is, its causes, symptoms, treatment options, available vaccines, preventive measures, and how this notorious disease is transmit. By the end of this article, you’ll have a thorough understanding of cholera and be better equipped to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Understanding Cholera

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease cause by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It spreads through contaminated water and food, and its severe form can lead to rapid dehydration, shock, and even death. Cholera’s name alone evokes dread, but delving deeper into its definition provides clarity on what we’re up against.

Symptoms of Cholera

Cholera is an infectious disease cause by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It primarily affects the intestines and can lead to severe dehydration if left untreated. The symptoms of cholera can range from mild to severe and typically appear within a few hours to five days after exposure to the bacteria. Common symptoms include:

Watery Diarrhea:

Cholera is characterize by profuse, painless, and extremely watery diarrhea. This diarrhea can lead to rapid dehydration.


Many people with cholerae also experience frequent vomiting, which can worsen the dehydration.


Dehydration is a major concern in cholera cases. It can lead to symptoms such as dry mouth, extreme thirst, reduced urine output, dark yellow urine, dry skin, and sunken eyes.

Muscle Cramps:

Muscle cramps and weakness can occur due to electrolyte imbalances caused by fluid loss.

Rapid Heartbeat:

Dehydration can result in a rapid or weak pulse.

Low Blood Pressure:

Dehydration can lead to low blood pressure, causing dizziness and, in severe cases, shock.


In severe cholerae cases, shock can occur, which is a life-threatening condition that may result in unconsciousness and organ failure.

Causes of Cholera

Cholera is primarily caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main causes and factors contributing to the spread of cholera are:

Contaminated Water:

Cholera bacteria thrive in contaminated water sources. The most common mode of transmission is through the ingestion of water or food that has been contaminated with fecal matter containing the bacteria. This contamination can occur due to poor sanitation and the improper disposal of sewage.

Poor Sanitation:

Inadequate sanitation facilities and the lack of proper waste disposal systems can lead to the contamination of water sources, making it easier for cholera to spread. In areas with poor sanitation, cholera outbreaks are more likely to occur.

Consumption of Contaminated Food:

Cholera can also be transmitted through the consumption of food, particularly seafood from contaminated waters, and raw or undercooked shellfish are known to be common sources of infection.

Natural Disasters:

Cholera outbreaks are more likely to occur following natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, which can contaminate water sources and disrupt sanitation systems.

Malnutrition and Weakened Immune Systems:

People who are malnourished or have weakened immune systems are more susceptible to cholera and may experience more severe symptoms.

How to Treat 

The treatment and management of choleras primarily focus on rehydration and, in some cases, the use of antibiotics. Cholera is a potentially life-threatening disease due to the rapid loss of fluids and electrolytes, so prompt and appropriate management is crucial. Here are the key aspects of treating and managing cholera:

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT):

ORT is the cornerstone of choleras treatment. It involves the oral administration of a solution containing a mixture of clean water, sugar, and electrolytes (such as salt and potassium) to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost through severe diarrhea and vomiting. Commercial oral rehydration salts (ORS) packets are available, and these can be mixed with clean water for administration.

Intravenous (IV) Rehydration:

In severe cases, especially when the patient is severely dehydrate or unable to drink ORS, intravenous fluids may be necessary. This involves administering fluids directly into the bloodstream through an IV line to rapidly restore fluid balance.


In addition to rehydration therapy, antibiotics like doxycycline or azithromycin may be prescribed in certain cases. Antibiotics can help reduce the duration and severity of cholera symptoms, but they are not a replacement for rehydration therapy.

Zinc Supplements:

Zinc supplements are often recommend, especially for children, as they can help reduce the duration of diarrhea and promote a faster recovery.

Isolation and Infection Control:

Patients with cholera should be isolate to prevent the spread of the disease, especially in crowd or outbreak settings. Proper infection control measures, including strict handwashing, should be practiced.

Nutritional Support:

Malnutrition is common among choleras patients. Nutritional support, such as ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs), may be need to address nutritional deficiencies and promote recovery.

Surveillance and Reporting:

Cholera cases should be promptly report to local health authorities to enable the tracking and control of outbreaks.

Cholera Vaccination

There are two main types of cholera vaccines:

Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV): The oral choleras vaccine is the most commonly use type of choleras vaccine. It is administer orally in the form of a liquid or a capsule. There are two main oral cholera vaccines approve by the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Dukoral: Dukoral is an inactivated whole-cell vaccine that provides protection against choleras and Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) diarrhea. It is usually take in two doses, with an initial dose and a booster dose.
  • Shanchol and Euvichol: These are two similar vaccines that contain inactivate V. cholerae O1 bacteria. They are typically administer in two doses over a short period of time.

Injectable Cholera Vaccine:

An injectable choleras vaccine known as Vaxchora (Vibrio cholerae CVD 103-HgR) is also available. Unlike the oral vaccines, this vaccine is administer as a single-dose injection. It is mainly used for travelers going to cholera-affected areas and has been approve by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this purpose.


How Cholera Is Transmitted

Cholera is primarily transmitted through the ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main modes of transmission include:

Contaminated Water:

Cholera bacteria can survive and multiply in water sources, especially in areas with poor sanitation and inadequate sewage disposal systems. When sewage containing the bacterium contaminates a water supply, such as a river, well, or reservoir, it can spread the disease to people who drink or use the contaminate water for cooking and cleaning.

Contaminated Food

Infectious diseases can also be transmit through the consumption of food that has come into contact with contaminate water or has been prepare by an individual with the bacterium on their hands. Common sources of foodborne cholera outbreaks include raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish from contaminated waters.

Person-to-Person Transmission:

While less common, infectious diseases can be transmit directly from person to person. This can occur in crowd or unsanitary conditions, especially in households or communities where infect individuals do not have access to proper sanitation facilities and hygiene practices.

Fecal-Oral Route:

The primary route of transmission is the fecal-oral route. This means that the bacterium is excrete in the feces of an infect person and can enter the mouth of another person through contaminate water or food, or by coming into contact with surfaces or objects contaminate with infect feces.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing cholera involves a combination of strategies aim at reducing the risk of infection. These strategies are particularly important in areas where cholera is endemic or during outbreaks. Key prevention strategies include:

Access to Clean and Safe Drinking Water:

Ensuring that communities have access to clean and safe drinking water is fundamental in preventing cholera. This includes treating water sources to eliminate the cholera bacteria and other pathogens and providing access to protected wells, piped water, or water purification methods such as chlorination or filtration.

Proper Sanitation:

Adequate sanitation facilities and systems are crucial to prevent cholera. This includes the proper disposal of human waste to prevent contamination of water sources and the environment. The construction of latrines and sewage systems, along with their regular maintenance, helps in reducing the risk of cholera transmission.

Handwashing and Personal Hygiene:

Promoting good personal hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing with soap and clean water, is vital. Proper handwashing can prevent the transmission of cholera and other infectious diseases. Education and awareness campaigns on the importance of hygiene are essential.

Safe Food Handling:

Ensuring that food is properly handled, cooked, and stored can prevent foodborne transmission of infectious disease. Avoid consuming raw or undercooked seafood, especially in areas with a history of cholera outbreaks. Maintain good food hygiene practices, including washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

Surveillance and Early Detection:

Surveillance systems should be in place to monitor and detect cholerae cases. Early detection of cases allows for a rapid response to control outbreaks and prevent their spread.

Emergency Response:

In areas prone to natural disasters or humanitarian crises, preparedness and rapid response plans for infectious disease outbreaks should be establish. This includes having treatment centers and medical supplies on hand to manage cases effectively.

Traveler Awareness:

Travelers going to areas with infectious disease risk should be inform about the disease and take precautions, such as drinking only safe water, avoiding risky foods, and practicing good personal hygiene.


Cholera is a dangerous disease, but with knowledge, awareness, and effective public health measures, we can combat it. Understanding the causes, symptoms, treatment, vaccines, and prevention methods is essential for managing cholera and ultimately reducing its impact on society.


1.Which is the main cause of cholera?

The main cause of cholerae is drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. The cholera bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, can live in brackish water and coastal waters, as well as in contaminated food and water supplies. Cholera is most common in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene, where the bacteria can easily spread.

2.What is the best treatment for cholera?

The best treatment for choleras are rehydration therapy. This involves replacing the fluids and electrolytes that are lost through diarrhea and vomiting. Rehydration therapy can be done by drinking an oral rehydration solution (ORS) or by receiving intravenous fluids.
3.What is the first medicine for cholera?

The first medicine for  choleras are oral rehydration solution (ORS). ORS is a mixture of water, sugar, and salts that helps to replace the fluids and electrolytes that are lost through diarrhea and vomiting. ORS is a safe and effective way to treat cholera, and it can be use to treat people of all ages, including pregnant women and young children.
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