Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if untreated. It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. The bacteria has the ability to produce toxins within the human body which leads to painless, watery diarrhoea also called rice water stools because of its appearance. In some cases patients might also have vomiting associated with the disease. Other symptoms are closely related to rapid loss of fluids from the body like mild fever, body ache, abdominal pain and cramps, lethargy and fatigue, excessive thirst, headaches, loss of elasticity of the skin etc. The biggest risk in cholera is the possibility of the patient getting dehydrated.
The disease is transmitted through contaminated water and food. During the monsoons this problem is further compounded by the overflowing of sewers and water logging. Vibrio cholera is present in a patient’s stools, and when this stool is not properly disposed, it leads to contamination of common water bodies. A doctor usually diagnosis cholera through either a blood or stool sample in combination with the symptoms of the patient.
Apart from prescribing antibiotics, a doctor wills advice the patient to constantly replace the fluid lost using oral re-hydration solutions. Depending on the severity of the condition a patient might need to be rehydrated intravenously. Cholera is a self limiting condition, and the greatest risk that a patient faces is severe dehydration. Dehydration can lead to multi-organ failure, coma and even death. Although there is a vaccine available in the countries like the United States, India still does not have a vaccination program in place. That being said, the vaccine is not very effective in preventing the disease in the case of an outbreak.
Symptoms of Cholera
Symptoms of cholera can begin as soon as a few hours or as long as five days after infection. Often symptoms are mild. But sometimes they are very serious. About one in 20 people infected have severe watery diarrhea accompanied by vomiting, which can quickly lead to dehydration. Although many infected people may have minimal or no symptoms, they can still contribute to spread of the infection. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dehydration include rapid heart rate, loss of skin elasticity, dry mucous membranes, including the inside of the mouth, throat, nose, and eyelids, low blood pressure, thirst, muscle cramps. If not treated, dehydration can lead to shock and death in a matter of hours.
Although there is a vaccine against cholera, the CDC and World Health Organization don’t normally recommend it because it may not protect up to half of the people who receive it and it lasts only a few months. However, you can protect yourself and your family by using only water that has been boiled, water that has been chemically disinfected or bottled water.
Read out all the lines about Cholera and be aware of it!