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Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. Modern sewage and water treatment have virtually eliminated Cholera in industrialized countries. But, Cholera still occurs in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Haiti. The risk for a cholera outbreak is highest when poverty, war, or natural disasters force populations to live in crowded situations without adequate sanitation.


The bacteria that causes Cholera is found in food or water contaminated by feces from a person with the infection. Common sources:


  • Municipal water supplies

  • Ice made from municipal water

  • Foods and drinks sold by street vendors

  • Vegetables grown with water containing human wastes

  • Raw or uncooked fish caught in waters polluted with sewage

If traveling to a country where Cholera is prevalent, follow safe food and water precautions:


  • Drink only treated water

  • Do not consume raw or undercooked foods, especially seafood

  • Practice diligent hand washing before eating and after using the bathroom

Symptoms can appear as soon as a few hours or five days after infection. 


  • Profuse, watery diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Leg cramps

  • Rapid fluid loss

  • Dehydration

  • Shock


Symptoms are often mild; some cases will not even show signs. But, even mild cholera symptoms can ruin a trip with vomiting or diarrhea. A person with Cholera can pass up to a liter of diarrhea per hour, quickly leading to dehydration. Although infected individuals may have no or mild symptoms, they can still spread the infection.

The FDA approved the vaccine in 2016. This vaccine takes the bacteria and weakens it so it can't reproduce itself very well. This "live weaken" dose is given as a single dose by mouth. It doesn't cause the disease. But vaccination is not commonly recommended. The vaccines are safe, but the risk of contracting the disease is rare, and the immune response is short-lived, so they are used infrequently.


However, people traveling "off the beaten path" in countries where Cholera is common and who engage in high-risk activities such as eating raw or undercooked food (such as shellfish) or drinking unbottled water should get the cholera vaccine.

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