Cholera: What is it, symptoms, contagion and treatment
Cholera is a bacterial disease that is usually transmitted through dirty water. Severe diarrhea and dehydration may occur as a result of this disease. Untreated cholera can be life-threatening. Therefore, it is very important to diagnose cholera disease at an early stage and start treatment early.
What are the symptoms of cholera?
There may be no symptoms in the early period as a result of exposure to cholera bacteria (vibrio cholerae). However, some symptoms may occur in the later stages of the disease. Some of the symptoms that may occur as a result of cholera are as follows:
Diarrhea: Severe diarrhea may occur as a result of cholera. As a result of diarrhea, the body may lose a lot of water.
Nausea and Vomiting: In the early stages of cholera, symptoms such as nausea and vomiting may occur. These symptoms may continue for several hours.
Dehydration: Dehydration can cause rapid loss of minerals in the blood that maintain the balance of body fluids. This is called electrolyte imbalance. Mild or severe dehydration may occur within a few hours after cholera symptoms begin. Loss of 10% or more of body weight may indicate severe dehydration. Symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, sunken eyes, dry mouth, excessive thirst, dry skin, little or no urination, low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat may also occur as a result of dehydration.
Cholera epidemics can occur frequently in places where poverty, war or natural disasters occur frequently. Modern sewage and water treatment can help prevent cholera in industrialized countries. However, cholera formation can be observed in countries such as Africa, Southeast Asia and Haiti due to primitive living conditions. Severe diarrhea after visiting an area with active cholera may indicate cholera.
What are the causes of cholera?
Cholera infection is caused by a bacteria called ‘vibrio cholerae’. This bacteria can cause a toxin to form in the small intestine. Toxin formed in the small intestine can be life-threatening.
Cholera bacteria may not cause disease in all people exposed to them. However, these bacteria can infect food and water sources through feces. Contaminated water sources are the main source of cholera infection. Some of the environments that can contain bacteria and cause cholera are as follows:
Surface or Well Water: Failure to clean common water sources in crowded environments well enough may cause cholera.
Consumption of Some Seafood: The ‘vibrio cholerae’ bacteria that causes cholera can settle in the shells of shellfish such as crabs and shrimps. Cholera disease may occur as a result of consuming such seafood raw or undercooked.
Raw Fruits and Vegetables: In countries where cholera is common, vegetables and fruits may be infected with cholera bacteria. Cholera may occur as a result of consuming raw fruits and vegetables infected with cholera-causing bacteria.
Anyone can be vulnerable to cholera, except babies who are immune from breastfeeding mothers who have had cholera before. However, some factors may increase the risk of cholera. Some of the factors that pose a risk for cholera are as follows:
Poor Hygiene Conditions: In refugee camps, poor countries and areas affected by famine, war or natural disasters, the hygiene conditions necessary for a healthy life may not be provided. The likelihood of developing cholera may be greater in such areas.
Not having enough stomach acid: Cholera bacteria cannot grow in an acidic environment. Having stomach acid at the required levels can help defend the body against cholera infection. However, children, older adults, and people taking medications such as H-2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors may have lower stomach acid levels than necessary. In such cases, the body’s defense against cholera may decrease.
Living with Individuals with the Disease: Being in the same environment with individuals with cholera disease and using common items may increase the risk of cholera transmission.
0 Blood Group: Individuals with blood type O may be more likely to develop cholera than other people.
Nutrition habits: The bacteria that causes cholera can infect shellfish. Frequent consumption of shellfish may increase the likelihood of cholera.
Can Cholera Be Prevented?
Cholera is a disease that occurs in areas where the necessary hygiene conditions for a healthy life cannot be provided. Some precautions that can be taken in areas where cholera occurs can help prevent the formation of cholera. Some of the practices that can help prevent cholera include:
Paying Attention to Common Area Use: Frequently washing hands with soap and water after using common areas such as the toilet and rubbing hands with soap for at least 15 seconds before rinsing can help reduce the possibility of cholera transmission.
Choosing Safe Water Sources: In regions where cholera occurs frequently, it is very important to avoid contact with common water sources and to choose only safe bottled water sources to prevent the disease from occurring.
Consuming Cooked Foods: Cholera bacteria can contaminate raw foods. Cholera may develop as a result of consuming such foods raw. Keeping food fully cooked and hot can help prevent cholera. It is very important not to consume raw foods such as sushi in regions where cholera occurs frequently.
Consumption of Peeled Vegetables and Fruits: Consumption of vegetables and fruits that do not have skins, such as grapes, mulberries and cucumbers, and are therefore consumed directly, may increase the possibility of cholera transmission. Choosing foods consumed with peeled peels, such as bananas, avocados and oranges, can reduce the possibility of cholera.
Cholera Vaccine: A cholera vaccine called Vaxchora® is recommended to protect people between the ages of two and sixty-four who plan to travel to areas where the disease occurs frequently. This vaccine can be taken orally as a liquid dose at least ten days before travel. Although the cholera vaccine contributes to preventing the disease, it is also very important to take personal hygiene precautions along with the vaccine. Applying such methods can help prevent the occurrence of cholera.
How Is Cholera Diagnosed?
In areas where cholera is frequently encountered, the symptoms that occur as a result of cholera may indicate the disease. However, the doctor may perform a laboratory test to examine cholera bacteria by taking a stool sample or rectal swab. A stool test can help diagnose cholera.
How to Treat Cholera?
Cholera disease can be life-threatening if not treated under appropriate conditions. Therefore, it is very important to treat cholera disease at an early stage. Some of the methods used in the treatment of cholera are as follows:
Rehydration: Diarrhea, one of the most common symptoms of cholera, can cause the body to lose large amounts of fluid and electrolytes. Cholera can be treated simply and successfully by immediately replacing fluids and salts lost through diarrhea. The main purpose of rehydration treatment is to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost as a result of diarrhea. Patients can be treated by drinking oral rehydration solution (ORS), which is a mixture of sugar and salt mixed with a liter of clean water.
Intravenous Fluids: In some cases, fluid and electrolyte loss that occurs as a result of cholera cannot be prevented by oral rehydration therapy. In such cases, intravenous fluids may be needed to treat the disease.
Antibiotics: Antibiotics are drugs that resist bacteria. Some antibiotics can reduce diarrhea associated with cholera and help shorten the duration of the illness in seriously ill patients.
Zinc Supplements: Cholera is a disease that causes severe diarrhea. Zinc use may help reduce the occurrence of diarrhea.
It is very important to take protective measures to prevent the occurrence of diseases. Going for regular hospital check-ups is very effective and important in managing health.
If you want to get detailed information about diseases such as cholera and protect your health, do not forget to go for routine hospital check-ups.