Cholera

Definition

Cholera is an infectious disease that affects the intestinal tract.

Causes

Cholera is caused by a specific bacteria. This bacterium releases a toxin that causes rapid loss of fluids from the small intestines. Cholera is spread by ingesting food or water contaminated by fecal waste. It is common in countries that lack proper sewage disposal.
Small Intestines
Small intestines
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Risk Factors

Cholera is more common in children 2-5 years of age. Factors that increase your risk of getting cholera include:
  • Living or traveling in areas where cholera is present
  • Eating contaminated food or fluids
  • Eating raw or undercooked shellfish
  • Having blood group O
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having low levels of stomach acid

Symptoms

Symptoms of cholera begin quickly and can be severe. They include:
  • Sudden onset of painless, watery diarrhea without blood or pus
  • Thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
The severity of symptoms ranges from mild, short-lived diarrhea to shock and death due to extreme fluid loss. Most symptoms occur one to three days after exposure.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It is important to tell your doctor about any recent travel to areas where cholera is common. If cholera is suspected, stool and blood samples will be tested.

Treatment

Fluid Replacement

The first priority in treating cholera is to replace fluids and electrolytes lost through diarrhea . In severe cases, dehydration can be fatal if it is not treated right away. Hydration solutions can be given orally or through an IV.

Antibiotics

Antibiotic medications may help shorten the course of the disease in severe cases. They may also be given to the people you live with to prevent them from becoming ill.

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