Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by ingesting contaminated water or food. When in developing countries avoid water that is not treated or bottled, and food that is not served hot, or fruit unless peeled yourself.
Cholera is a severe diarrhoeal illness caused by infection with cholera bacteria, Vibrio cholerae. In some developing countries where Vibrio cholerae is present, bacteria contaminates drinking water, uncooked seafood and other foods.
Symptoms begin from a few hours to up to five days after infection. Symptoms include sudden onset of severe, watery diarrhoea, sometimes with vomiting. In developing countries, up to 50 per cent of cases die from dehydration and kidney failure if not adequately rehydrated. Infection without symptoms or with only mild diarrhoea also occurs, particularly in children.
Cholera is usually spread through:
People who are most likely to get cholera are travellers to developing countries where cholera occurs.
If you are diagnosed with cholera:
People who have shared the same exposures as someone diagnosed with cholera (i.e. shared food or drink from the same source) should see a doctor and be tested.
Imported white bait, shellfish and other seafood eaten whole should be cooked thoroughly before consumption.
When travelling to developing countries where cholera occurs do not:
When travelling to developing countries where cholera occurs do:
Laboratory tests are required to identify the bacteria from a faecal specimen. Specialist tests are needed to confirm that the bacteria carries the cholera toxin.
Cholera can be treated with fluids and salts. Patients are treated with oral rehydration solution, a solution of sugar and salt water and drunk in large amounts. Severe cases may require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt rehydration, fewer than 1% of cholera patients die.
Antibiotics can shorten the course and reduce the severity of the illness, but they are not as important as rehydration.
Persons who develop severe diarrhoea and vomiting in countries where cholera occurs should seek medical attention promptly.
Laboratories and hospitals are required to notify cases of cholera to the local public health unit under the Public Health Act 2010. Public health units investigate cases to identify possible sources of infection and to prevent spread.
For further information please call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055