What is cholera & how do you catch it?
Cholera is a bacterial infection usually contracted through drinking contaminated water, or less commonly via food.
Every year there are millions of cases of cholera, mainly in countries without access to clean drinking water and with inadequate sanitation facilities, including:
• Sub-Saharan Africa
• South and Southeast Asia
• The Middle East
• Central America and the Caribbean
Signs & symptoms
Those who have picked up the cholera bacteria don’t always have symptoms, but these are some of the typical symptoms you should expect:
• Severe, watery diarrhoea
• Stomach cramps
Cholera symptoms can occur just after a few hours, but generally develop within a few days of picking up the infection. If untreated, dehydration from severe diarrhoea and vomiting can quickly take effect, causing the body to go into shock because of a big drop in blood pressure.
If you are travelling to a country known to be affected by cholera, here are a few ways you can help protect yourself:
• Only drink boiled or sealed bottled water
• Avoid ice in your drinks and ice creams
• Wash (in safe water) or peel uncooked fruit and vegetables
• Avoid shellfish, seafood and salads
Practice good personal hygiene measures – always wash your hands in safe water before eating and visiting the bathroom
The risk to most travellers is very low and vaccination is usually only recommended in the following circumstances:
• Volunteers/aid workers/medical personnel in disaster relief situations where cholera outbreaks are likely
• Those travelling to work in slums/refugee camps or areas affected by natural disasters
• Those travelling to countries experiencing cholera outbreaks and where care with food and water is difficult or not possible
The drinkable cholera vaccine is given in two or three (depending on age) separate doses, taken from one to up to six weeks apart and completed at least a week before travelling.
How long do cholera vaccinations last?
Two doses of the vaccine will help protect against cholera for two years. The level of protection gradually reduces over time, so you’ll need a booster if you continue to travel to areas where there is a risk.