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Cholera - Understand This Deadly Disease And Protect Yourself From It

Updated on August 28, 2012

A combination of clean fresh water and good sanitation is all that it takes to control cholera. Unfortunately large parts of the world lack both fresh water and adequate sanitation. This coupled with the ravages of war, famine, and natural disasters, that force large numbers of individuals to live side by side in cramped and unsanitary conditions, leads to an estimated 100,000 people dying every year from this dreadful disease.

Cholera can attack anyone, but the young the elderly, and those with debilitating medical conditions are those most likely to succumb first.

Cholera is thought of as a water born disease as the bacteria is primarily found in contaminated water, not common here at home. The few cases of cholera that we find in the United States are primarily found in those who have been in areas of infection, and in those who have ingested raw seafood from coastal waters, mainly oysters. It pays to be aware that the bacteria can also be found in vegetables and fruits, and even in grains.

Cholera does not spread directly from person to person. It travels from the infected to the uninfected through contaminated water or food.

Extreme diarrhea is the first and most obvious symptom of cholera. The stool of the infected individual is a milky slurry, often full of white rice-like flecks, the cast off cells from the intestinal organs. There may also be vomiting, extreme thirst, and a lessening supply of urine. The individual will quickly become lethargic, and the skin and mouth alarmingly dry. The victim will suffer from cramps, the blood pressure will drop, the heartbeat will become irregular, and the kidneys will fail. The victim may then go into shock.

If cholera is treated immediately, most victims will survive. If untreated cholera can kill in less than a day. Even when help is sent to stricken areas, it is usually insufficient to help all those in need, and hence most victims will die.

When treating cholera, it is essential that the patient is re-hydrated immediately and the electrolyte balance is restored. It the disease is mild, liquids can be administered by mouth. If the patient is to ill, or unable, to drink, then fluids are given intravenously. Antibiotics may also be given. There is a vaccine for cholera, but it is not available in the United States, mainly because it is not thought to be sufficiently effective and is not long lasting.

Less developed areas have their appeal for travelers - I being one - for a variety of reasons. If you must or choose to travel to these areas, observe a few precautions.

1. Avoid eating street food.

2. Drink only bottled purified water or water that you have boiled or purified.

3. Use the above water to brush your teeth and avoid getting shower water or swimming pool water in your mouth.

4. Eat only cooked vegetables and fruits, unless you have washed and peeled them yourself.

5. Avoid all raw seafood, at home and abroad. It's not worth taking a chance.

6. Do not eat salads, ice cream, or ices.

7. Wash your hands with warm soapy water before eating and before preparing food.

8. Stay out of areas known to have active cases of cholera.

9. Visit your doctor immediately if you have even the slightest suspicion that you may have cholera.


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    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for reading and commenting Teaches 12345 - on the surface the symptoms don't seem alarming, but if you can't rehydrate pretty quickly, it can be fatal - B.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I did not realize this disease was so deadly. The symptoms seem mild, but then your last mention of shock is scary. Thanks for the tips on how to prevent it. Very interesting!

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Nice to hear from you Always Exploring - I appreciate your comments - B.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Very interesting, many helpful ideas..Thank you..

    • forall profile image

      forall 5 years ago

      Good hub Summarizing exactly what people need to know about Cholera.

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for you kind comments and votes Tillsontitan - I have spent time in some at-risk areas, where the problem could be solved with an investment of less than it cost for some of the destructive hardware we know and love - anyway, such is life - regards, B.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Very interesting. We hear about cholera but fortunately don't know much about it in the US. You have given a good description of it and great suggestions about traveling in countries where cholera may be suspect.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.