Cholera is a bacterial infection in your small intestine, caused by Vibrio cholerae. Cholera infection is acquired by consuming contaminated food and water. Although this vibrio infection is often mild or without symptoms, sometimes it results in death.
Vibrio cholerae’s toxin causes a sudden onset of severe watery diarrhea, winding up with severe dehydration. Other cholera symptoms you may experience beyond diarrhea, and many a consequence of dehydration, involve:
- dry skin
- no tears
- dry mouth
- extreme thirst
- rapid heart rate
- muscle cramps
- low urine output
- abdominal cramps
- nausea & vomiting
- low blood pressure
- “fishy” odored bowls
- glassy, sunken eyes
- rice in stool appearance
Cholera often occurs in poor sanitation, crowding, war and famine environments. Cholera endemic areas include India, Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, Mexico, South and Central America.
About 90% of those exposed to vibrio cholerae don’t get sick. But for those experiencing cholera’s severe symptoms, their loss of large amount of fluid in a short time can turn dehydration deadly within hours.
Your health preserving treatment for vibrio cholerae is to immediately replace vital electrolytes and fluid lost during those severe diarrhea episodes. Large amounts of water mixed with a prepackaged oral rehydration mixture of sugar and salts is used to treat cholera. Don’t travel to high risk areas without it!
For severe cases, intravenous fluid replacement might be required. Should you develop severe diarrhea and dehydration in countries where cholera occurs, expeditiously seek attention from a health professional. With prompt re-hydration, fewer than 1% of cholera infected individuals die.
And taking antibiotics may shorten the time and severity of your Vibrio cholerae illness. Rehydration first, deal with acquiring the proper cholera antibiotic later.
Contaminated surface water and wells are the primary source of a vibrio cholerae infection. A couple of additional factors to consider:
- malnutrition & cholera are connected
- type O blood ~ unknown reason twice as likely
- compromised immune system more susceptible
- raw or undercooked shellfish (oyster, crabs) are sources
- vibrio cholerae bacteria can lie dormant in water for long periods
- cholera is not likely to spread from casual contact with an infected person
- cholera bacterium may live in brackish rivers & coastal waters environments
- uncooked or unpeeled fruits, vegetables, grains can harbor vibrio cholerae bacteria
- cholera has been contracted after eating raw or undercooked shellfish from the Gulf of Mexico
- reduced or nonexistent stomach acid higher risk ~ H. pylori infection, taking antacids or other ulcer treatment drugs
You can substantially reduce your risk for contracting cholera by following these consumption recommendations:
- no salads
- don’t purchase from street vendors
- no undercooked, raw fish or shellfish
- peel all fruit yourself before consuming
- tea & coffee made with boiled water only
- thoroughly cook food & eat while still hot
- carbonated, bottled beverages with no ice
- don’t bring perishable seafood back to the U.S.
- only drink boiled water or if treated with chlorine or iodine
If you can’t boil it, cook it or peel it, then to safeguard your health don’t eat it.