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Cholera: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About cholera

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. It is characterised by rapid and extensive loss of fluids in form of copious diarrhoea.

Cholera: Incidence, age and sex

Cholera is usually seen in places where sanitation practices are poor and hygiene is inadequate. Cholera may be commonly encountered in some places of Africa and Asia. All individuals, starting from newborns to elderly people, may be afflicted with this disease.

Signs and symptoms of cholera: Diagnosis

The clinical features of cholera are sudden in onset and may vary from mild to severe in different individuals. The most prominent symptom is watery and profuse diarrhoea which may be accompanied by vomiting. The diarrhoea resembles rice water and present with a fishy odour. The diarrhoea in cholera is usually painless; however it may be accompanied with abdominal cramps in some individuals. Mild fever and nausea may also be complained of. The affected individual may show signs of dehydration in response to water loss by copious diarrhoea. Such signs constitute dryness of the mouth, sunken eyes, dry and pinched skin, lethargy, diminished urine output and palpitations.

This infection can be easily diagnosed by the characteristic ‘rice water’ appearance of stool and can be established by isolating bacteria in blood and stool culture.

Causes and prevention of cholera

Cholera is caused by bacteria Vibrio cholerae which is especially active in areas of crowding, poor sanitation, inadequate hygiene and in flood-stricken regions. The bacteria releases a toxin which causes increased secretion of water from the small intestines, resulting in abundant watery diarrhoea. It is a water-borne infection which spreads in the population through ingestion of contaminated water and food. Individuals from developed countries may get this infection while travelling through some places of Africa and Asia where cholera is widespread.

Cholera: Complications

Cholera is usually a mild to moderate disease which requires immediate and adequate replenishment of fluids. However in certain individuals where water loss from body is abundant, dehydration may ensue. If dehydration is not managed timely, it may worsen leading to electrolyte imbalance, occasional seizures or even death.

Cholera: Treatment

Cholera is a self-limiting infection which generally resolves with time. Meanwhile symptomatic relief and adequate hydration results in complete recovery in most cases. Fluids can be given orally or even intravenously depending on the grade of dehydration and condition of the individual. WHO has promoted a special oral rehydration solution (ORS) which is recommended to be given to individuals having dehydration. Antibiotic medications like doxycycline may be prescribed to effectively eliminate bacteria and accelerate the recovery process.