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Cholera immunization can be carried out in two different ways. One option is an oral suspension called Dukoral® that is given in two separate doses three to six weeks apart. An injectable vaccination also is available and is administered in two injections delivered two to six weeks apart. A booster shot is recommended after six months to update immunity before travel to countries with regular cholera outbreaks.
Symptoms of a cholera infection are profuse diarrhea and vomiting. The average patient can become dehydrated very quickly from the loss of fluids. The patient will need to be treated with an electrolyte solution to replace valuable salts in his blood and to maintain the efficiency of the cardiac and renal systems. Antibiotics administered to the patient will destroy the bacteria multiplying in the digestive tract.
The cholera vaccination is made from a solution that contains inactivated bacteria and a mixture of the toxic compound secreted by the bacteria. The vaccination causes the immune system to produce antibodies to the bacteria, thus preparing it to fight an infection from the bacterium responsible for cholera. The immunization is not rated safe for infants less than six months of age and has not been evaluated for use by pregnant women.
Immunity to cholera is not completely obtained by receiving the cholera immunization. Only about 25 to 50 percent immunity is acquired after a cholera immunization series. Preventing the transmission of the cholera bacteria is the best way to fight against an outbreak. The bacterium is spread through contaminated drinking water and unsanitary living conditions. Boiling all drinking water and monitoring the preparation of all food to be consumed can help prevent a cholera infection.
Some countries may require a certificate of immunization upon entry, especially if a traveler is arriving from a country that has a known cholera outbreak. In this case, a record of the cholera immunization must be presented that is less than six months old. If a person is planning to travel extensively in a country facing a cholera outbreak, a booster vaccination is recommended every six months.
The immunity acquired from the cholera immunization is expected to last for three to six months. It is important to exercise vigilance when monitoring the drinking water and the eating conditions when in these high-risk undeveloped countries because the vaccination does not guarantee protection from a cholera infection. In developed countries, cholera is more likely to be spread through the eating of contaminated shellfish.
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