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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Cholera

Introduction

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal illness caused by a bacteria. The disease infects the small bowel and causes painless, watery diarrhoea. It is known to infect only humans.

Cholera is usually transmitted via infected water that has been contaminated by faeces and less commonly via food.

The disease is found throughout the world particularly in countries where sanitation is poor, particularly parts of Africa, India and South East Asia.

The Illness

The disease causes rapid onset of watery diarrhoea and vomiting. Extreme dehydration can occur due to the affected individual's inability to retain fluids orally. Medical attention should be urgently sought as individuals can die quickly if they are not treated promptly.

Treatment

Antibiotic therapy is required in conjunction with rapid and adequate fluid replacement.

Recommendations for Travellers

Prevention is focused on ensuring safe food and water, particularly in countries where cholera is more common. Food and drink to be wary of include untreated water, ice, shellfish, salads, unwashed fruit and vegetables.

Good personal hygiene is essential. Individuals should ensure that they wash their hands prior to eating and after visiting the bathroom.

A vaccine is available to protect against cholera. Vaccination may be considered under the following circumstances:

  • Volunteers/aid workers/medical personnel in disaster relief situations where cholera outbreaks likely.
  • Those travelling to work in slums/refugee camps, areas affected by natural disasters, or countries experiencing cholera outbreaks.

 

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