Cholera is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea. The cholera bacterium is usually found in water or food contaminated by feces (poop). Cholera is rare in the US. You may get it if you travel to parts of the world with inadequate water treatment and poor sanitation, and lack of sewage treatment. Outbreaks can also happen after disasters. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another.
Often the infection is mild or without symptoms, but sometimes it can be severe. Severe symptoms include profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In severe cases, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
Doctors diagnose cholera with a stool sample or rectal swab. Treatment includes replacing fluid and salts and sometimes antibiotics.
Anyone who thinks they may have cholera should seek medical attention immediately. Dehydration can be rapid so fluid replacement is essential.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Cholera (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Cholera Fact Sheet (World Health Organization) Also in Spanish
- Cholera Illness and Symptoms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Cholera in Children (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Cholera Information for Adults (Logical Images)
- Cholera Prevention and Control (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Cholera Treatment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Cholera (National Institutes of Health)