Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. Left untreated, cholera can be fatal within hours, even in previously healthy people.
Modern sewage and water treatment have virtually eliminated cholera in industrialized countries. But cholera still exists in Africa, Southeast Asia and Haiti. The risk of a cholera epidemic is highest when poverty, war or natural disasters force people to live in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation.
Most people exposed to the cholera bacterium (Vibrio cholerae) don't become ill and don't know they've been infected. But because they shed cholera bacteria in their stool for seven to 14 days, they can still infect others through contaminated water.
Most cases of cholera that cause symptoms cause mild or moderate diarrhea that's often hard to tell apart from diarrhea caused by other problems. Others develop more-serious signs and symptoms of cholera, usually within a few days of infection.
• Diarrhea: Cholera-related diarrhea comes on suddenly and can quickly cause dangerous fluid loss — as much as a quart (about 1 liter) an hour.
• Nausea and vomiting: Vomiting occurs especially in the early stages of cholera and can last for hours.
• Dehydration: Dehydration can develop within hours after cholera symptoms start and range from mild to severe. A loss of 10% or more of body weight indicates severe dehydration.
Courtesy: Mayo Clinic