Cholera

an acute, diarrheal illness

Description

The illness is caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium vibrio cholerae.

Symptoms

The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in 10 infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

Causes

A person can get Cholera by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the cholera bacterium. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with improper treatment of sewage and drinking water. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another. Therefore casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.

Treatments

Patients can be treated with oral rehydration solution, a prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts to be mixed with water and drunk in large amounts. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt rehydration, fewer than 1% of cholera patients die.

Deaths and Number of Illness per year

About 3 to 5 million cases and over 100,000 deaths occur each year around the world.