What is it?
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is most often spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated.
What is my risk?
Most travelers are at very low risk, if they practice good personal hygiene and safe food and water precautions, even in countries where cholera outbreaks are being reported.
Travelers at higher risk include those visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation, or to areas where outbreaks are occurring.
How is it transmitted?
The bacteria are found in the stool (feces) of an infected person. It can be spread to other people who consume food and water contaminated with the bacteria, especially in areas where sewage and drinking water are poorly treated.
Food, particularly undercooked or raw shellfish and fish, can be contaminated by water containing the bacteria or if it is handled by an infected person.
What are the symptoms?
Most infected people do not show any symptoms.
Those who do develop symptoms usually have mild to moderate diarrhea, with or without vomiting. In more severe cases, symptoms include leg cramps, nausea, vomiting and frequent watery diarrhea, which can lead to severe dehydration and even death if not treated promptly.
Can it be treated?
The most important treatment is to stay hydrated.
If a person with symptoms is treated promptly, the illness is rarely fatal. In severe cholera cases, antibiotics can help shorten the length of the illness.
How can I prevent it?
Practice safe food and water precautions
Wash your hands frequently
Consider getting vaccinated
Monitor your health and carry oral rehydration salts