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Cholera is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. You can get cholera if you eat food or drink water that is contaminated with the bacteria.
Cholera is a health problem in many developing countries. It’s mainly found in Africa, south Asia, and Latin America. It is rare in developed countries like the U.S. But there have been some outbreaks in the U.S. They have been caused by contaminated seafood that travelers have brought into the country.
The acids in your stomach and digestive tract can kill small amounts of the cholera bacteria. Because of this, most infected people will not have any symptoms. But the bacteria are still in their stool for 7 to 14 days. During that time, they can infect other people. This is especially true if they have poor hygiene habits.
The cholera bacteria are often found in water supplies made unclean because of the unsanitary disposal of stool. Cholera is rarely passed from one person to another. It is often spread by drinking water or eating food from:
Most people who get symptoms have a mild to moderate upset stomach. Worse cases may cause vomiting and watery diarrhea, called “rice-water stools.” These symptoms may lead to dehydration. Signs and symptoms may include:
If untreated, severe dehydration can lead to shock and death. People with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of dying from the infection.
For diarrhea that is worse than normal, see a healthcare provider. Don’t treat it on your own. Seek medical help if diarrhea becomes severe and watery, or if vomiting happens.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
You may need to be rehydrated with fluids. Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to help you get better faster.
One of the best ways to prevent cholera is to wash your hands often.
If you are traveling in an area where cholera is common, only use water that has been boiled or chemically disinfected for:
You should also not eat or drink foods or beverages from unknown sources. Any raw food could be contaminated, including:
No vaccine is available in the U.S. But 2 oral shots are available abroad. At this time, no country requires the shot for entry if a person arrives from a country with the disease.
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