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Diseases / Cholera

Cholera

What is it

Cholera is an infection of the intestine caused by consumption of food or drinking water contaminated with the bacteria. An estimated 1.4 to 4.3 million cases and 28,000 to 142,000 deaths occur due to cholera each year around the world. 1

Who is at risk and what are the symptoms

Australians travelling to countries in Asia, South America and Africa that may have poor hygiene and sanitation standards are at risk. The bacterium that causes cholera produces a toxin that affects the intestines, causing acute watery diarrhoea and vomiting. The biggest threat posed by cholera is the risk of severe dehydration, which can lead to death within a few hours. 1,2

How is it spread

Cholera is spread from person to person through contaminated food and water in countries with poor hygiene and sanitation issues.It is usually found in water or food sources that have been contaminated by faeces from a person infected with the disease. 1,2

How is it prevented

Vaccination is available for cholera. As the risk of cholera infection is low for travellers, it is advised that Australians visiting at risk countries take safe precautions with food and water consumption. Always drink sealed bottled water, avoid ice in drinks and don’t eat raw or unpeeled food that may have been washed in contaminated water. If in doubt before travelling consider consulting a medical practitioner to discuss the cholera vaccine. 3

How is it diagnosed and treated

Diagnosis is based on the presence of symptoms in an area where the disease is known to be present. Cholera can be effectively treated with rehydration solutions. For those with severe dehydration, intravenous (IV) fluids and antibiotics may be prescribed. If not treated, cholera can cause severe dehydration and death. 1

Where to get help

Urgent medical advice is recommended for the onset of cholera-like symptoms. For further information on prevention and management of cholera speak with your healthcare professional.







References:

  1. WHO: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs107/en/
  2. Immunise Australia Disease Factsheet: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part4~handbook10-4-1
  3. Immunise Australia International Travel Vaccination: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part3~handbook10-3-2