What is Cholera?
Cholera is a bacterial infection and is caused by drinking water contaminated with vibrio cholerae bacteria. It can also be transmitted by eating food that has been in contact with contaminated water (salads, fruit, ice cubes).
Cholera is a waterborne disease and can spread quickly in areas where sanitation is poor and access to clean drinking water is limited.
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How it is spread?
Around 75% of people who are exposed to cholera bacteria do not develop any symptoms. However, these people can contaminate water by passing stools (faeces) that contain bacteria into water, or pass on the disease through poor food hygiene.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of cholera are:
• uncontrollable watery diarrhoea
• nausea (feeling sick)
• vomiting (being sick)
• muscle cramps
If left untreated the combination of diarrhoea and vomiting can cause a person to quickly become dehydrated and go into shock. In some cases this can prove fatal.
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How can it be treated?
Cholera is easy to cure. Up to 80 per cent of cases can be successfully treated with oral rehydration salts.
"Individuals can boil water, take a litre of it and mix it with a teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar and thereby create oral rehydration therapy".
Cholera needs swift treatment with oral rehydration solution (ORS) to prevent dehydration and shock. ORS comes in a sachet and is made up of a mixture of salts and glucose, which are dissolved in water. ORS is designed to replace the fluids and minerals that are lost when a person becomes dehydrated. In addition to using ORS, antibiotics can also be used to treat the underlying infection.
There is also a vaccine available which is taken in drink-form. A vaccination is not required in all cases, but is appropriate for people travelling remotely, where there are cholera epidemics and healthcare access is limited. Those visiting refugee camps or working as relief workers are particularly vulnerable to cholera so are often advised to take this vaccine as a precaution.
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Who is most affected?
“Cholera is a disease that defines poverty; it has done so historically and continues to do so today,” said Dr Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water and Sanitation at UNICEF. “In [some] rural areas, 99 per cent of people practice open defecation. This has huge public health implications.” 
Every year, the disease kills an estimated 100,000-120,000 people and 3–5 million others are infected, according to the World Health Organisation.
Any contaminated water or foods washed in the water can cause an infection. Cholera is rarely spread directly from person to person.
Refugee camps, which are often very crowded, are at very high risk of cholera outbreaks if minimum requirements of clean water and sanitation are not met.
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SOME STATISTICS ON CHOLERA
- In the aftermath of the Rwanda crisis in 1994, 23,800 people died in cholera within one month in the refugee camps in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- According to the Ministere de la Sante Publique et de la Population (MSPP), as of March 31, 2013, 652,730 cases and 8,060 deaths have been reported since the cholera epidemic began in Haiti. Among the cases reported, 360,934 (55.3%) were hospitalized.
The main tools for cholera control are:
• proper and timely case management in cholera treatment centres;
• specific training for proper case management, including avoidance of nosocomial infections;
• sufficient pre-positioned medical supplies for case management (e.g. diarrhoeal disease kits);
• Improved access to water, effective sanitation, proper waste management and vector control;
• Enhanced hygiene and food safety practices;
• Improved communication and public information.
Advice to Travellers
If you are concerned about travelling abroad and contracting Cholera speak to your doctor or nurse who can advise you. You can purchase ORS from most pharmacies, travel shops and camping suppliers.
Also bear in mind you should also avoid eating food that could have been washed in water such as salad and fruit. In addition, you could purchase a water purification system to both protect you against cholera and avoid the expense of buying bottled water.
How can LIFESAVER technology help you avoid contracting Cholera?
A vibrio cholera bacterium measures at about 1300 nanometres long but LIFESAVER technology filters down to 15 nanometres meaning any cholera found in a water source can be filtered out using a LIFESAVER bottle or jerrycan.
LIFESAVER technology has already been used in Haiti and Pakistan (as two examples) to lower the numbers of Cholera cases and enable beneficiaries to access clean safe drinking water. Travellers and various military also rely on LIFESAVER technology to ensure a safe water supply.
LIFESAVER technology ensures 99.9999% of all bacteria and viruses are removed from any water source offering those using the technology the confidence to go about their daily lives without worrying about contracting Cholera.
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Cholera in Haiti, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [online] Available at: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/haiti-cholera
Dalal, M., 2013. Cholera in Haiti: from control to elimination, Al Jazeera, [online] Available at: www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/01/2012111193155842439.html
NHS, 2012. Cholera. [online] Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/cholera/Pages/Definition.aspx
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WHO, -, Prevention and control of cholera outbreaks: WHO policy and recommendations - Available at: www.who.int/cholera/prevention_control/recommendations/en/index2.html
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WHO, 2012, 10 Facts on Cholera. [online] Available at: <http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/cholera/en/index.html
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 Cholera in Haiti, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [online] Available at: <http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/haiti-cholera
WHO, -, Prevention and control of cholera outbreaks: WHO policy and recommendations. [online] Available at: <http://www.who.int/cholera/prevention_control/recommendations/en/index2.html