Cholera is an infectious disease that leads to watery diarrhoea, which further causes dehydration and even death if not treated on time. It happens when you eat or drink water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholera.
Over the last 5 years in India, Dengue cases have gone up by eight times and cholera cases, seven times. A recent report stated that every year, approximately 1,18,093 people suffer from diarrhoea. The disease is highly common in places with poor sanitation, crowds, famine and war. Common locations include parts of Africa, South Asia and Latin America. So if you are travelling to any of these areas with your family, being aware of the following information is important.
Causes of Cholera:
Vibrio cholera, the bacterium that is solely responsible for cholera, is generally found in food or water contaminated by feces from a person who has the infection.
Common sources are:
- Municipal water supplies
- Ice made of municipal water
- Food and drinks sold at street stalls
- Vegetables grown in water contaminated with human waste
- Raw or uncooked fish or seafood caught from waters that are polluted with sewage
When a person eats that contaminated food or drinks the water, the bacteria tend to release a toxin in the intestines that cause severe diarrhoea.
There are fewer chances of you getting affected by cholera simply from casual contact with an infected person.
Symptoms of cholera:
Symptoms of cholera can start within a few hours or even after 5 days after the infection. Most of the time symptoms are mild. However, sometimes they are very serious. About one in 20 infected people experience severe watery diarrhoea accompanied with vomiting, which can instantly cause dehydration. Although, majority of people have minimal to no symptoms, they still can spread the infection.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration are:
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of elasticity of skin (the inability of the skin to return to its original position quickly after being pinched)
- Dry mucous membranes
- Excessive thirst
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
- If not treated on time, dehydration can be fatal.
- Rehydration. The prime motive is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes with the help of a simple rehydration solution, ORS (oral rehydration salts). ORS is available in powder form that can be reconstituted with bottled or boiled water. Without rehydration, around half of the people with cholera die. With timely treatment, the fatality number reduces to less than 1 percent.
- Intravenous fluids. During a cholera epidemic, the majority of people can be helped through oral rehydration alone, however, severely dehydrated people may require intravenous fluids.
- Antibiotics. While antibiotics are not really important, some drugs may help reduce the amount and duration of diarrhoea associated with cholera.
- Zinc supplements. Research shows that zinc may reduce the duration of diarrhoea in children suffering from cholera.
Prevention can begin with drinking water that has been boiled or chemically disinfected. Be sure to use boiled or bottled water for the following purposes:
- Making food or drinks
- Making ice
- While brushing your teeth
- Washing hands and face
- Washing dishes and utensils in which you prepare food
Furthermore, we recommend to stay away from raw foods like:
- Fruits and vegetables that are not unpeeled
- Milk and milk products that are unpasteurized
- Uncooked or raw meat or shellfish