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Cholera – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Overview

The monsoon brings with not just long awaited rains, but unfortunately, also a spate of diseases. Cholera is one such disease that tends to rear its ugly head year after year. Let’s find out its symptoms and how you can prevent it from afflicting you and your family.

Watery stools, upset stomach and uncontrollable vomiting could be the main symptoms of cholera, which is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria .

What is Cholera?

Cholera is an acute infection of the small intestine characterized by watery stools, abdominal cramps and vomiting. The bacterium responsible for causing it is Vibrio cholerae, which causes increased release of water in the intestines, producing severe diarrhoea.

Spread of Cholera

There are many ways cholera gets passed on. These include:

  • Bacteria get excreted through faeces and when this comes in contact with drinking water, it can infect people
  • If and when people do not wash their hands thoroughly after using the toilet
  • Through fish and shellfish from contaminated water

Signs and Symptoms of Cholera

Typically, Cholera begins to show its symptoms in a very short span of time after it infects a person . Initially, stomach ache (cramps) is experienced without otherwise feeling sick. Then vomiting and diarrhoea (rice-water stools) take over, followed by mild fever. Fluid loss through diarrhoea becomes excessive, reaching up to one liter per hour.

Danger Signs

Cholera can be fatal if:

  • The fluid loss exceeds 5 to 10 liters and it is not replaced
  • The electrolyte (salt) imbalance in children particularly can cause convulsions or cardiac arrest
  • Extensive dehydration affects level of consciousness

Typical Signs of Dehydration

Classical signs in a dehydrated person can be:

  • Dry mouth and skin
  • “Glassy” eyes with no tears
  • State of confusion, lethargy and sleepiness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Reduced or no urine
  • Thirst

Diagnosing Cholera

Blood and stool culture are done to reach the diagnosis.

Treatment of Cholera

The objective is to replace water and electrolytes lost during diarrhoea and vomiting.

  • Oral rehydration with salt and sugar mixture
  • Replacement of lost fluid through intravenous fluids for quick results in severe cases
  • Antibiotics such as doxycycline to limit the duration of illness

Do not take cholera symptoms lightly as dehydration can lead to death. Make sure treatment is started immediately.

Prevention of Cholera

Clean drinking water is key to preventing cholera. Follow these simple steps to protect yourself:

  • Drink boiled or sterilized water
  • Boil unpasteurized milk before drinking
  • Avoid ice cubes in drinks
  • Choose hot and well-cooked foods
  • Avoid raw fish, fruits and vegetables
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