Cholera is an infectious disease of the small intestine that causes watery diarrhea and vomiting. It is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae and is typically spread by fecal contamination of water or food due to poor sanitation. A person must ingest a considerable number of bacteria (about 100 million) to be infected and the symptoms typically show after one to five days. The infection can be quite dangerous because an untreated person can lose as much as 20 liters (5 US gallons) of fluid per day. This leads to severe dehydration and death in approximately 60% of untreated cases. Let’s find out how this serious condition is treated.
How is cholera treated?
The main course of treatment for cholera relies on the management of the symptoms. This includes providing oral rehydration fluids to the patient to ensure they do not become dehydrated. In serious cases hospitalization may be required and intravenous fluids may be administered. Antibiotics can also be used to treat the condition and lessen the symptoms, although a patient should recover without them. The most common antibiotic used to treat this condition is doxycycline, but some strains have shown resistance to this drug.
The most important step in the prevention of this disease are improvements in water purification, sanitization and personal hygiene. Water filtration is extremely important, but can be expensive. A cheap water filtration method using a folded sari (type of fabric garment worn by women in south Asia) is being taught to the local populations to help prevent the disease. A sari folded just four to eight times has been shown to reduce the number of the bacteria in the drinking water.
A number of vaccines exist to prevent this disease and a mass vaccination effort is underway to reduce the instances of this disease.
Did you know?
About 3-5 million cases of cholera are thought to occur each year and it is estimated to cause more than 100,000 deaths each year.