What is Cholera?

Cholera is a serious infectious disease mainly characterized by severe watery diarrhea, loss of fluid and electrolytes, and acute dehydration. Cholera is caused by Vibrio cholerae, which is a toxic bacterium and commonly spreads through contaminated water. Therefore, if you consume any food or water contaminated by Vibrio cholerae, it can be fatal! In case of emergency, instant action or treatment is a must to deal with the disease; otherwise, it can lead to death in a span of a few hours. The point to note here is that even though a person seems to be fit and healthy before catching the disease, death can’t be avoided in severe cases.

An Insight into Cholera Bacteria: Vibrio cholerae

Cholera-causing bacteria Vibrio cholerae releases CTX (a strong toxin) in the small intestines. When these toxins bind to the intestinal wall, it hinders the otherwise normal flow of chloride and sodium. Furthermore, as the bacteria Vibrio cholerae clings onto the small intestine’s walls, the body starts to secrete an enormous amount of water, which leads to diarrhea and a rapid loss of salts and essential fluids from the body as well.

While Cholera is not typically passed from one person to another through mere casual contact, the contamination can very much happen by feces (or stool) of an infected person. A few common sources that can spread the deadly bacteria include-

  •  water supplies from the local municipality.
  •  ice made from untreated municipal water.
  • vegetables and fruits cultivated with sewage water that contains human excreta.
  • street food and beverages.
  • undercooked or raw seafood and fish that have been caught in polluted water.

Cases of Cholera in India Every Year:

Despite the fact that cholera is extremely rare in India—fewer than 100,000 cases per year—the World Health Organization (WHO) has previously warned that the illness could resurface in the country. Research conducted in 2012 states that India roughly receives around 1000 to 1500 strains of the Vibrio cholerae bacteria every year. These are generated from approximately 30 to 40 establishments from India itself and a few others from outside the nation.  In the latest report published in July, Gujarat registered around 50 positive cholera cases.

Signs and Symptoms of Cholera:

A majority of people who are exposed to cholera disease show mild cholera symptoms and never become ill, but sometimes the symptoms are very serious. If you are exposed to cholera disease, you will pass Vibrio cholerae (the bacteria) through your stool for about 7 to 14 days. Around just one in 10 of those infected show typical symptoms within 2 to 3 days.  After getting exposed to the disease, the symptoms generally appear between 12 hours to 5 days. The signs and symptoms range from asymptomatic (mild) to severe. They typically include:

•          Watery diarrhea.

•          Vomiting.

•          Leg and muscle cramps.

•          Increased heart rate.

•          Thirst.

•          Low BP.

•          Dizziness.

•          Sunken eyes.

•          Excessive weight loss.

•          Loose skin (the skin loses the ability to bounce back to its original position if pinched)

•          Drying of the mucous membranes (inside mouth, throat, and even nose, and eyelids).

While children usually show the same symptoms as adults, they may additionally experience the following:

•          Fever.

•          Severe drowsiness.

•          Convulsions.

•          Coma.

As cholera leads to severe diarrhea accompanied by extreme vomiting, it leads to dehydration and the person infected can lose approximately 20 liters of fluids in a day. Therefore there is a chance of severe dehydration and shock. Shock can further collapse the circulatory system and is a life-threatening condition.

Diagnosis of Cholera:

Your doctor may diagnose cholera if you have acute watery diarrhea, dehydration, and vomiting. You are a cholera suspect if you have spent a few days in poor sanitation, consumed raw or undercooked seafood, especially shellfish, or have recently visited a place that has been hit by cholera. However, it is almost impossible to differentiate a patient suffering from cholera from those infected by another pathogen that causes similar watery diarrhea without testing a sample of stool. But if cholera is at all suspected, your doctor will begin treatment and not wait for results to come.

Treatment of Cholera:

If you have cholera symptoms, your doctor can confirm by identifying the bacteria from the stool sample. With proper care and timely treatment, even severely ill patients can be protected. Here is a list of a few common cholera treatments:

●       Rehydration Therapy

Rehydration is the primary and most important treatment. It refers to the quick restoration of lost salts and fluids. The therapy ensures: sufficient volumes of oral rehydration salts, electrolytes and intravenous (IV) fluids as and when necessary.

●       Antibiotic Treatment

To combat cholera, antibiotics have been used since 1964. The antibiotic checks and reduces the fluid requirements and also helps in lessening the duration of illness. Doxycycline is the most recommended antibiotic; it is suitable for almost all adults, pregnant women, and even children. If there is any resistance to doxycycline then, Azithromycin and Ciprofloxacin are prescribed.

●       Zinc Treatment

Zinc treatment helps children to recover faster. In case of a cholera outbreak, children who are 6 months or older are generally prescribed 20 mg of zinc per day.

In addition to the treatments, there are currently three vaccines (Dukoral, Shanchol, and Euvichol) recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Two doses of any of the three cholera vaccines give full protection against cholera.

Prevention of Cholera:

As cholera spreads through food, water, and poor hygiene, here is a list of precautions you must take to prevent the disease:

•   Ensure you use bottled or boiled water for drinking, preparing food and beverages, making ice, brushing, washing your face and hands, and washing fruits and vegetables.

•   Avoid raw foods, unpeeled vegetables and fruits, unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized milk products, raw or undercooked seafood, shellfish, and meat.

•   When traveling to places where cholera disease is prevalent, take the following precautions:

  • Wash, peel, and eat the fruits.
  • Avoid fruit and vegetable salads.
  • Avoid eating raw fish.
  • Consume only boiled or bottled water.
  • Do not consume street food.
  • Make sure you eat thoroughly cooked food.

Cholera disease can be life-threatening, but at the same time, it can be easily prevented and treated. Check our website and choose from the best wellness products and deals that help you stay healthy and fit.

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