Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by consuming the bacterium Vibrio cholera which can be present in contaminated food or water.
Typical symptoms include severe diarrhoea that can quickly lead to dehydration and death if not treated promptly. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.
Most people infected with V. cholerae do not become ill, although the bacterium is present in their faeces for 7-14 days. When illness does occur, about 80-90% of episodes are of mild or moderate severity and are difficult to distinguish clinically from other types of acute diarrhoea.
Fewer than 20% of ill persons develop typical cholera with signs of moderate or severe dehydration.
Is it preventable?
Yes. Cholera can be prevented by vaccination.
Cholera levels are a key indicators of social development. While the disease no longer poses a threat to countries with minimum standards of hygiene, it remains a challenge to countries where access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation cannot be guaranteed.
The disease can also spread quickly follow major natural disasters such as in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.