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Cholera bacteria under an electron microscope

Cholera is an infectious disease. It is caused by a bacterium Vibrio cholerae. This bacteria usually lives in water. Vibrio cholera is more common where fresh water mixes with salt water, like where rivers enter the ocean. It is more common in water with lots of algae.


Cholera is an acute intestinal illness. It causes stomach aches, very watery and continuous diarrhea and vomiting. The diarrhea and vomiting, in turn, can cause very bad dehydration, leading to death if untreated.

How people get cholera

Single Vibrio Cholera

Cholera is contracted by eating foods and/or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae.

Often, people get cholera from eating fish that is not cooked enough. They can also get it if they eat food or drink that was polluted with the diarrhoea from people who have cholera. The most common symptoms of cholera are dehydration and fever.

The most common way people get Cholera is by drinking unclean water.

How to treat cholera

People with cholera need medical treatment. Most of the treatment for cholera is giving people fluids (water) and electrolytes (salts). For most people with cholera, fluids and electrolytes are given by mouth. This can be done with 80-90% of people. The best way to give this by mouth is WHO-ORS: World Health Organization Oral Rehydration Solution. (Oral means by mouth. Rehydration means to give back fluids and electrolytes to someone who is dehydrated. Solution is a mixture of salts and water.)

Some people cannot take enough fluids and electrolytes by mouth. Usually this is because vomiting is so bad. These people must be given treatment intravenously. (Intravenous means into a vein. Intravenous fluids and electrolytes are given through a needle into a person's vein.) This is necessary because if people cannot drink enough fluids and electrolytes, they can die quickly.

How to prevent cholera

Cholera can be stopped by three steps:

  • Never eat raw fish (especially shellfish.)
  • Good sanitation. This means keeping things clean. It also means making sure human waste (urine and feces) does not get into food or water supply.
  • Boiling, filtering, or chlorinating water before use. (Boiling works best.)

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