Cholera is a gastroenteritis caused by Vbirio cholerae infection manifested through extreme diarrhea and dehydration. If the infection is not treated and symptoms are not managed, the patient could die within few hours. Vibrio cholera, the bacteria that cause cholera, produce toxins that irritates the lining of the small intestine. The diarrhea is the body's reaction to these toxins; it's the body's way of expelling the toxins out the system. The complications can arise from severe dehydration and loss of electrolytes. Within 4 to 12 hours of continuous fluid discharge, the patient could go into hypovolemic shock if treatment is not provided.
Cholera is a very rare occurrence in developed countries where proper water sanitation and sewage system are given top priority. In third world countries, however, cholera outbreak is still a common occurrence. Cholera is particularly common in Africa where 5 percent of the patients die from complications.
Mode of transmission of cholera
The number one mode of transmission of cholera is through contaminated water. A small amount of fecal matter from a person with cholera is enough to infect the entire water system causing cholera outbreak. Foods washed or improperly cooked using infected water can also spread the bacteria. In less developed countries, it's also possible to be infected from eating shellfish harvested from infected waters.
Although very rare, but direct human action can also spread cholera. For instance, a cholera patient's hands can carry the bacteria after using the bathroom without observing proper hygiene. He or she could also infect food and other objects, which could come in contact with another person's mouth. This incidence is most likely to occur if the patient works in a food business or a restaurant.
Prevention from cholera infection
If you're travelling to places where cholera is still a problem, it's wise to avoid drinking water from the tap. If reliable bottled water is not available, sterilize the tap water first before drinking or using it for cooking. Brushing your teeth and even boiling the water for bathing is even advised in high risk areas. It's also advised to eat properly cooked, hot foods and avoid fruits and vegetables washed directly from the tap. Regular hand washing especially before eating is also a must.
Although not mandatory, you could also get oral cholera vaccine. There are two known oral cholera vaccines today, which are commercially available in countries with cholera outbreak.
If proper rehydration and electrolytes replacement is administered very early enough, then the cholera should go away in few hours without complications. There are oral rehydration salts in powder or tablet form available for this purpose. Extensive treatment and management is only needed if the patient has been losing fluids and electrolytes for several hours without replenishment. In this case, intravenous fluids are aggressively given to the patient to quickly replace the lost fluids and electrolytes.
Antibiotics such as cotrimoxazole, doxycycline, erythromycin, chloramphenicol, etc. may also be given to shorten the course of infection. Doctors will particularly recommend this treatment to children and infants and patients with low stamina to begin with.
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