WHAT IS CHOLERA?
Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholera. It is usually transmitted via infected water that has been contaminated by faeces and less commonly via food.
After an incubation period that may last from a few hours to 5 days, severe cholera is characterised by a sudden onset of watery diarrhoea accompanied by nausea and vomiting. If left untreated, this can rapidly lead to serious dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and circulatory collapse. Over half of the most severe cases, affecting risk individuals result in death within a few hours; with prompt, effective treatment, death occurs in less than 1%. In healthy individuals, symptoms may be mild and then only diarrhoea may be seen.
It can be treated with the fluid replacement using oral rehydration salts and the use of antibiotics.
DO I NEED CHOLERA VACCINE FOR MY HOLIDAY?
Visitors to countries and areas where cholera is present and who will be unable to take reasonable precautions with food and water, e.g. relief workers and when working in refugee camps or slum areas, should consider being vaccinated.
The vaccine available in the UK is called Dukoral. It is vaccine which you make up, then drink for each dose.
For continuous protection against cholera a single booster dose is recommended within 2 years for adults and children from 6 years of age, and after 6 months for children aged 2 to 6 years.
HOW DO I AVOID GETTING CHOLERA?
Prevention is focused on ensuring safe food and water, particularly in countries where cholera is more common. Food and drink to be wary of include untreated water, ice, shellfish, salads, unwashed fruit and vegetables.
Good personal hygiene is also very important. Individuals should ensure that they wash their hands prior to eating and after visiting the bathroom.