General epidemiology of cholera


Cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by ingesting the bacteria Vibrio cholerae present in contaminated water or food.

It is mainly linked to inadequate sanitation and insufficient access to safe drinking water.

It is an extremely virulent disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhoea resulting in high morbidity and mortality, and can spread rapidly, depending on the frequency of exposure, the exposed population and the setting.

Cholera affects both children and adults of all sexes, but males in age group 21 – 30 years are disproportionately more affected. It can be fatal within hours if untreated.

The incubation period is between12 hours and five days after ingestion of contaminated food or water.

Most people infected with V. cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for 1-10 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.

The majority of people who develop symptoms have mild or moderate symptoms, while a minority develop acute watery diarrhoea and vomiting with severe dehydration.

Cholera is an easily treatable disease. Most people can be treated successfully through prompt administration of oral rehydration solution (ORS).

The consequences of a humanitarian crisis – such as disruption of water and sanitation systems, or the displacement of populations towards inadequate and overcrowded camps – can increase the risk of cholera transmission, should the bacteria be present or introduced.

A multi-sectoral approach including a combination of surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH), social mobilization, treatment, and oral cholera vaccines is essential to control cholera outbreaks and to reduce deaths.



Source: World Health Organisation



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