Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is most often spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated.
The Cholera Vaccine
Dukoral is the cholera vaccination currently recommended by the World Health Organization. The vaccine is administered orally in two doses: one taken up to six weeks prior to departure and the second taken at least one week before the trip. It will provide protection one week after immunization and is effective in up to 85% of cholera cases and 25% of travellers’ diarrhea cases.
What is my risk?
Speak with one of our Travel Health Specialists to understand the risk of cholera for your trip.
Travellers at higher risk include those visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation, or to areas where outbreaks are occurring.
Most travellers are at very low risk, if they practise good personal hygiene and safe food and water precautions, even in countries where cholera outbreaks are being reported.
How is it transmitted?
- The bacteria are found in the stool (feces) of an infected person. It can be spread to other people who consume food and water contaminated with the bacteria, especially in areas where sewage and drinking water are poorly treated.
- Food, particularly undercooked or raw shellfish and fish, can be contaminated by water containing the bacteria or if it is handled by an infected person.
What are the symptoms?
- Most infected people do not show any symptoms.
- Those who do develop symptoms usually have mild to moderate diarrhea, with or without vomiting.
- In more severe cases, symptoms include leg cramps, nausea, vomiting and frequent watery diarrhea, which can lead to severe dehydration and even death if not treated promptly.
Can cholera be treated?
The most important treatment is to stay hydrated.
If a person with symptoms is treated promptly, the illness is rarely fatal. In severe cholera cases, antibiotics can help shorten the length of the illness.
Where is cholera a concern?
- Cholera occurs most commonly in regions of the world where there is inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene, overcrowding and a lack of safe food and water.
- The risk of cholera can increase following disaster situations (for example, earthquakes, hurricanes, civil unrest) due to the disruption of water and sanitation systems and the displacement of populations to overcrowded camps.
- Cholera continues to occur in many developing countries especially where sanitation is poor, including parts of Africa, Asia and to a lesser extent, Central and South America.
Speak with one of our Travel Health Specialists preferably six weeks before you travel.
Practise safe food and water precautions. More information about food and water safety is available from the CDC.
Consider getting vaccinated. Discuss whether vaccination is right for your with one of our Travel Health Specialists.
Wash your hands frequently. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Monitor your health and carry oral rehydration salts, in case of severe diarrhea.