What is Cholera?

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  • Written By: J.Gunsch
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 26 May 2020
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Cholera is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, which affects the intestinal system of the body. An infected person experiences severe vomiting, explosive diarrhea, and severe dehydration. Without immediate medical treatment, this illness may result in death within four to 12 hours after symptoms begin. Due to a large loss of body fluids, the disease is gruesome in the way that it leaves survivors in their physical appearance, as well as in the biological toll it takes on the body.

The bacteria that causes cholera is very contagious. It is spread by the unintentional consumption of infected feces that contaminate food and water, and it can also be spread through human to human contact. Some people have also been infected with it by eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

The disease is easily treated with fluids and antibiotics. When antibiotics are unavailable, which is commonly the case in areas that are plagued by the illness, a simple mixture of water and glucose for rehydration is life saving. It usually resolves itself after a period of time; the danger is the severe dehydration that quickly causes death.

Similar to the bubonic plague that has showed its face time and again, cholera is suspected to be an ancient disease. It has unquestionably reoccurred in seven pandemics since 1817, including in Europe and the United States. The most recent pandemic began in Asia in 1961 and continues to the present day in Africa.

In developing countries, cholera is prevalent in areas that do not enjoy sanitary living conditions because of poverty and a lack of resources. In pandemic regions, even sanitary conditions may not prevent further outbreak. Many people do not receive information on how the disease is spread, fear seeking medical help, or simply do not have access to any kind of treatment.

Cholera is not common in developed countries due to the availability of medical treatment, regulated heath standards, clean water, and effective sewage systems. Cases in developed countries are often the result of raw shellfish or people who have contracted the illness while traveling. Those traveling to countries that have epidemics should take careful precautions to prevent infection.

Precautions for travelers include boiling water before drinking or washing, or treating it with chlorine or iodine. Frequent hand washing with clean water, especially after using the toilet, is imperative. Travelers are also advised to ensure their food is fully cooked and hot, peeling their own fruit, and avoiding raw vegetables, including salads. Raw and undercooked shellfish should also be avoided.

Cholera is a disease that causes social stigmas and stereotypes in epidemic areas. Indigenous peoples who commonly fall victim to it fear the status of social outcast more than the disease itself. Throughout history, communities that have had outbreaks are marked as diseased and dirty even after they are no longer at risk for spreading the bacteria.

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Discuss this Article

Post 35

What do you mean "human to human contact"?

Post 34

I think I may be moving to Haiti which has, according to my doctor, a lot of cases of cholera. Is there any medical vaccine to help prevent it for long periods of time?

Post 31

A very important part of overseas travel, especially to developing nations, is to drink only bottled or filtered water.

Post 26

this is really interesting. can you get cholera in England? just wondering.

Post 23

How old is cholera? When were the first cases in history?

Josh Burns
Post 22

"Diarrhea," or "Diarrhea" can be spelled either way. Much in the same way the word Color can be spelled Color and still remain proper.

Cholera can be "easy" to get following the right circumstances. Human to human contact, eating from tainted food (such as someone not washing their hands and then touching food).

In first world countries, cholera is not a big concern. Remember why your mom always told you to wash your hands before eating? You'll never know how many lives that simple mentality has saved.

Post 20

Where did this virus come from originally and no one has ever defined. Is it just glucose for the cholera to be stopped or is there any medicine that will permanently cure cholera? debee

Post 19

Surely people have some kind of shiny metal or aluminum foil lying around and metal or glass containers. Why couldn't makeshift solar stoves be rigged up to boil contaminated water for drinking? Why aren't medical assistance groups there to help promote this?

Post 18

wow thanks for whoever posted this. i have to do a research about this for school!

Post 17

Yes. I was actually just speaking to my colleague about his and he shared that he happened to be in the military stationed in SE Asia in the 60s when there was a cholera outbreak. He said that although the soldiers were given the vaccine, some of them contracted cholera anyway.

Post 12

Cholera is in the united states. Our own President James Knox Polk was a victim of this disease.

Post 11

Can cholera affect your organs?

Post 9

is cholera easy to get?

Post 8

is cholera in the u.s.?

Post 7

diarrhea is spelled wrong.

Moderator's reply: "Diarrhea" is the correct spelling in the United States, where most wiseGEEK writers live. Either spelling is correct, according to Webster's Dictionary (published by Gramercy, a division of Random House).

Post 2

this page is so interesting for people

Post 1

is there any vaccine to prevent cholera?

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