Cholera, a bacterial disease, emerges from consuming food or water contaminated with Vibrio cholerae bacteria. The condition leads to a severe diarrhea and dehydration. Cholera can be life-threatening within a short period of time if it is not treated immediately, even in people who were previously healthy.

In industrialized countries, cholera has been virtually eliminated because of modern sewage and water treatment systems. The majority of places where this bacterial infection occurs lack modern sanitation and clean water infrastructure. Cholera is still widespread in several areas of Haiti, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

The likelihood of a cholera outbreak increases significantly when circumstances such as poverty, war, or natural disasters force individuals to live in densely populated areas without proper sanitation facilities. Warmer climates typically experience more cholera outbreaks.

There are effective treatments for cholera. The use of a simple and cost-effective rehydration method can reduce the risk of death brought on by severe dehydration.


The majority of people exposed to the cholera bacteria (Vibrio cholerae) do not get sick and frequently are not even aware that they are infected. They still have the ability to infect others through contaminated water because they continue to excrete cholera bacteria in their stools for seven to 14 days.

The majority of symptomatic cholera cases result in mild to moderate diarrhea, which can be challenging to distinguish from diarrhea caused by other underlying issues. Some people get more severe cholera symptoms and signs that often start a few days after contracting the infection.

Cholera infection signs and symptoms can include the following:

  • Diarrhea: Cholera-induced diarrhea manifests suddenly and has the potential to rapidly lead to severe fluid depletion, with a rate of up to one quart (approximately 1 liter) per hour. The diarrhea linked to cholera commonly displays a pale, milky texture akin to water used to rinse rice.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Vomiting is particularly common during the initial stages of cholera and can persist for several hours.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can manifest within a few hours after the onset of cholera symptoms and can vary in intensity from mild to severe. Severe dehydration is indicated when the body weight drops by 10% or more.

Other signs and symptoms of dehydration include irritability, fatigue, sunken eyes, a parched mouth, intense thirst, dry and withered skin that exhibits a delayed reaction to pinching, infrequent or limited urination, low blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat.

Dehydration has the potential to result in the quick depletion of minerals within the bloodstream responsible for upholding the equilibrium of bodily fluids. This condition is referred to as an electrolyte imbalance.

  • Electrolyte imbalance: Serious signs and symptoms can arise due to an electrolyte imbalance, this includes:ฃ
    • Muscle cramps: The rapid loss of vital salts like sodium, chloride, and potassium is the cause of these problems.
    • Shock: This constitutes one of the most critical complications resulting from dehydration. It manifests when decreased blood volume causes the blood pressure and oxygen levels in the body to drop. Severe hypovolemic shock can cause death in minutes if untreated.

The chance of getting cholera is low in developed countries. Even in regions where it is present, the likelihood of contracting an infection remains low if you adhere to food safety guidelines. Cholera still occurs occasionally in different parts of the world. A person should seek medical attention right away if they experience severe diarrhea after traveling to an area where cholera is still present.

It is advised to seek immediate medical attention if they have diarrhea, especially if it is severe, and they think they may have been exposed to cholera. Profound dehydration constitutes a medical emergency necessitating prompt attention.


Cholera infection is caused by a bacterium known as Vibrio cholerae. The toxin produced by the bacteria in the small intestine is what causes this illness’s fatal effects. This toxin causes the body to secrete large amounts of water, which causes diarrhea and a rapid loss of fluids and electrolytes.

Not everyone exposed to cholera bacteria may necessarily cause illness. They may still be able to expel the bacteria in their feces, though, which might contaminate food and water sources.

The main cause of cholera infection is contaminated water sources. The bacteria are present in:

  • Water source: Public wells that have been contaminated serve as frequent origins of widespread cholera outbreaks. Individuals residing in densely populated areas lacking proper sanitation facilities are particularly vulnerable to this risk.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables, both raw and unpeeled, are frequently associated with cholera infections in areas where the disease is predominant. Produce can become contaminated right in the field when untreated sewage is used as irrigation water or uncomposted manure is used as fertilizer in underdeveloped countries.
  • Seafood: Cholera bacteria can be exposed through consumption of raw or inadequately cooked seafood, especially shellfish from particular locations.
  • Grains: Grain products like rice and millet that are contaminated after cooking and then kept at room temperature for a long time can encourage the growth of cholera bacteria in regions where the disease is common.

Risk factors

Cholera can affect anyone, except for infants who acquire immunity from nursing mothers with prior cholera exposure. Specific factors can heighten an individual’s susceptibility to the disease or increase the likelihood of experiencing severe signs and symptoms.

The following risk factors for cholera includes:

  • Improper hygiene conditions: In environments where maintaining basic sanitation, particularly a safe water supply, proves difficult, cholera is more likely to develop. Such conditions are common in refugee camps, developing countries, and areas impacted by starvation, war, or natural disasters.
  • Reduced or nonexistent stomach acid: Because cholera bacteria cannot survive in an acidic environment, the normal stomach acid usually serves as a protection against infection. People who lack this defense, such as children, the elderly, people who take antacids, H-2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors, have lower stomach acid levels and are therefore more vulnerable to cholera.
  • Household exposure: The risk of contracting cholera rises if an individual resides with someone who is afflicted by the disease.
  • Type O blood: People with type O blood have a twofold increased risk of contracting cholera compared to people with other blood types.
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish: While widespread cholera outbreaks are no longer common in industrialized countries, eating shellfish from waterways known to have the bacteria significantly increases the chance of contracting the disease.