Cholera: What You Should Know | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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General information

Please visit the Vaccine Education Center for general information about cholera and the vaccine.

Additional information from past issues of the Parents PACK newsletter

Cholera: What You Should Know

Cholera is an infection caused by a bacterium known as Vibrio cholerae. The disease is spread through fecal contamination of water or food and can infect thousands of people in a relatively short span of time. Cholera occurs most commonly in developing countries in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. In developed countries, travelers are the primary source of the disease.

What are the symptoms of cholera?

While many people with cholera do not experience symptoms or only have mild diarrhea, those with more severe disease become quickly dehydrated as a result of frequent diarrhea and vomiting. Because of the rapid loss of fluids, patients can experience complications such as electrolyte imbalances, kidney failure, and arterial blockages. Expectant mothers can experience premature delivery or miscarriage. In the absence of rehydration therapy, about 4 of every 10 people with severe disease die from the illness.

Is there a vaccine?

Yes. Two cholera vaccines, each given orally, have been made; however, neither is commonly recommended for use. While both vaccines are safe, the risk of disease, even to travelers, is so minute and the immune response so short-lived, that they are used infrequently. In the U.S. no vaccine against cholera is available.

How can I protect myself and my family?

If you are traveling to a country where cholera is occurring, follow safe food and water precautions:

Updated: January 2012

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