Published On: Fri, Aug 24th, 2012

CHOLERA: Who are at Risk and what to avoid?


Cholera has been all over the world but today the infection is still rampant in some developing countries like Sierra Leone.


What is Cholera?

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by the pathogen Vibrio Cholerae, a gram-negative bacterium that infects the intestines. The infections often cause mild or, sometimes, no symptoms at all.

But, if left untreated, it can be so severe it leads to death. It is estimated that for every twenty infected patients, one has a severe version of the disease, identified by profuse watery stools, nausea and vomiting and leg cramps with rapid body fluids and electrolyte loss, eventually causing dehydration and shock.

Its Infectivity

Cholera mostly infects humans. A person may acquire this kind of water-contaminating disease by drinking water or eating food that has been infected with the cholera bacterium Vibrio Cholerae.

In an outbreak, the source of this contamination is usually the feces or fecal matter of a person infected with cholera. The disease can spread quickly where there is poor treatment of sewage and drinking water. The cholera bacterium may also live in the environment of brackish rivers and coastal waters.

What to Avoid ?

Shellfish that are uncooked and eaten raw have also been sources of cholera. The disease is not likely, and rarely spread directly from person to person, thus, casual contact with an infected person is not a big threat for becoming ill. A certain amount of bacteria is needed before people with normal quantities of stomach acid become infected, since the acid in our stomachs also kills a number of bacteria.

Once the bacteria has infected its main target, which is the small intestines, the person may experience diarrhea that is characterized by “rice- watery stool” and is profuse. Vomiting is one of the hallmarks of this disease. If these symptoms are present one should seek medical treatment quickly before it becomes fatal.

Who are at Risk?

Everyone could be at risk to have cholera but there are specific factors that can make you much more susceptible to the disease. Malnutrition and cholera are interconnected. Those who are malnourished are very suscepitble to cholera because cholera flourishes when proper nutrition is lacking.

Also, people with low levels of stomach acid are likely to develop cholera since cholera bacteria can’t survive in an acidic environment. People who have had gastric surgery, who have untreated Helicobacter pylori infection, or who are taking antacids, H-2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors for ulcers are also at risk.

Using Antacids

Antacids help neutralize stomach acid. On the other hand, H-2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. Thus, children and older adults are at risk because they tend to have lower than normal stomach acid levels. You have a higher risk of acquiring cholera if you live with somebody who is infected with the disease. You may also be infected easily if you have a compromised immune system.

What Studies Say

There are also studies that show that people with type O blood are twice likely to develop cholera compared to people who have other blood types. Also, ingesting raw or undercooked shellfish, which are transported by travelers from countries where cholera is an outbreak, increases one’s risk.

These are a few of the risk factors that should be taken note of for people who may be susceptible to acquiring the cholera infection.

Treating  Cholera

Usually ORS or Oral Rehydrating Solution is the primary treatment to replace the water and electrolyte lost since the solution contains salts and sugars. Antibiotics are also prescribed to help lessen the course of the disease and relieve symptoms. Increasing one’s fluid intake is very essential and could be a lifesaver.

Also,drinking water must be purified either by chlorine, iodine or to be boiled.

We must follow the following things:

a) We should eat properly cooked and hot food or self peeled fruits to be taken.
b) We shall always avoid under cooked or raw fish or shellfish.
c) We must avoid salads and uncooked vegetables.
d) We must avoid beverages and foods from street vendors.
e) We shall avoid bringing unpreserved seafood.
f) Check for appropriate hygiene and water cleansing systems.
g) Give fluid tasteless foods, mint, lemon and onions to the patient.
h) Fruits and vegetables must be washed with potassium permanganate solution.
i) Vaccines for cholera must be taken.
j) Health instruction intended at behaviour varying is an important component of cholera prevention and control.

These are some of the things that you can follow to prevent cholera.