Published: 19 Apr 2024, 14:15 pm IST
Medically Reviewed by

What is Cholera?

Cholera is a disease that can lead to stomach aches as well as nausea and dehydration. It is caused due to intestinal infection.

Cholera is an infection of the intestine and can lead to stomach ache and nausea. Image courtesy: Pexels

Cholera is a highly infectious disease that happens due to a bacteria called Vibrio cholerae. It is contagious in nature. Food and water contaminated with this bacteria, can get you sick in no time. Cholera is a fairly common disease, and 1.3-4 million cases of cholera each year, which also leads to 21,000 to 1,43,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly dehydration are the symptoms, while patients may also experience nausea, muscle cramps, and a rapid heartbeat. Make sure to watch out for signs of dehydration such as extreme thirst, dry mouth, decreased urine output, and feeling lightheaded or dizzy.

Causes of Cholera

The main cause of cholera is V. cholerae, that produced a toxin called cholera toxin (CTX) in the small intestine. This, in turn, attaches itself to the intestinal walls. When this happens, the body starts to secrete water, and that is what leads to loose motions and diarrhea.

This bacteria can be caused by the following:

  • Contaminated water
  • Raw and uncooked sea food
  • Raw fruits and vegetables

Key Facts of Cholera

Major Symptoms
  • Severe diarrhea
  •  Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle cramps


Necessary Health Tests
  • Your doctor will check for symptoms
  • Stool culture
  • Rehydration
  • Antibiotics
  • Zinc supplements
  • Extra nutrition
  • Follow up

Symptoms of Cholera

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most people experience mild symptoms of cholera, and only 10 percent have severe symptoms. Common symptoms of cholera include:

1. Severe diarrhea

Cholera can lead to watery diarrhea, and that can lead to dehydration due to rapid fluid loss.

2. Vomiting

Nausea, frequent and intense vomiting can happen in cholera. This further leads to fluid loss and dehydration.

3. Dehydration

If you are dehydrated, you will experience extreme thirst, dry mouth, decreased urine output, and dark-coloured urine.

4. Rapid heart rate

Dehydration can cause an increase in heart rate, known as tachycardia.

5. Low blood pressure

Severe dehydration may lead to a drop in blood pressure, resulting in symptoms such as dizziness, light headedness, and fainting.

6. Muscle cramps

Dehydration can cause electrolyte imbalances, leading to muscle cramps or weakness.

The symptoms of cholera can show up within a few hours to five days after getting infected. However, most of the people experience these within two to three days. Not everything will get all the symptoms. The most common symptom is mild diarrhea to severe dehydration. If you are experiencing severe dehydration, then you need to take action immediately, as that can be dangerous. If cholera symptoms are ignored or not treated, it can become life-threatening due to the loss of fluids and electrolytes from the body.

Diagnosis of Cholera

Getting diagnosed and treated for cholera involves several steps.
First, your doctors check for symptoms like severe diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration, and may do a stool test to confirm the presence of cholera bacteria.

Treatment of Cholera

Treatment mainly focuses on rehydration, either through drinking oral rehydration solution or receiving fluids through a vein, especially for severe cases as one is left severely dehydrated.

Antibiotics may also be prescribed to lessen symptoms and make the illness shorter. Additionally, zinc supplements may help children recover faster. Infected individuals should stay away from others to prevent spreading the illness, and it’s important to maintain good hygiene practices.

Doctors closely monitor the patient’s condition and may provide extra nutrition to support recovery. Follow-up care includes check-ups to ensure complete recovery and education on preventive measures such as safe food and water practices and vaccination if needed.

Getting treatment early is crucial for helping someone with cholera feel better quickly and preventing serious complications.

Cholera Related FAQs

Can cholera be fatal?

Yes, cholera can be fatal if not treated promptly. The main complication of cholera is severe dehydration, which occurs due to the loss of fluids and electrolytes through profuse diarrhea and vomiting. If left untreated, severe dehydration can lead to hypovolemic shock, a condition where there's not enough blood circulating in the body to supply vital organs, potentially resulting in organ failure and death.

What can you eat in cholera?

You can start by having some electrolytes that will help with dehydration. Coconut water is a good option. Once the vomiting goes away, you can even have soups, curd rice and various broths.

How long does cholera take to get treated?

People who have mild symptoms of cholera begin to feel better within a week. If you have a severe case of cholera too, and are on medications, you will feel better in a week’s time.

What should you avoid during cholera?

Where food is concerned, anything that is raw, and especially unpeeled should not be consumed. So raw fruits and vegetables are a complete no-no. You must also avoid poultry, meat and dairy products.

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