According to the World Health Organization, cholera affects 3–5 million people and kills 100,000–120,000 people worldwide annually. “Modern sewage and water treatment have virtually eliminated cholera in industrialized countries. The last major outbreak in the United States occurred in 1911. But cholera is still present in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, India and sub-Saharan Africa. The risk of cholera epidemic is highest when poverty, war or natural disasters force people to live in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation.” (Mayo Clinic)
Symptoms of Cholera
About 75 percent of people infected with the cholera bacterium, usually through contaminated water, do not experience any symptoms. However, they can pass along the bacteria to other people through their feces, in which it can live for 7 to 14 days after infection. If symptoms do develop, about 80 percent experience mild to moderate symptoms and about 20 percent develop acute, watery diarrhea with severe dehydration, which can lead to death in a matter of hours even in previously healthy people.
Symptoms may include:
• Diarrhea which comes on suddenly and appears pale, milky white, like water in which rice has been rinsed. The diarrhea can cause a person to lose up to a quart (.95 liters) an hour.
• Nausea and vomiting can occur in the early and later stages. Vomiting may persist for hours at a time.
• Dehydration can occur within hours after the onset of symptoms. “A loss of 10 percent or more of total body weight indicates severe dehydration.” (Mayo Clinic)
• Irritability, lethargy, sunken eyes, dry mouth, extreme thirst, dry and shriveled skin with low elasticity when pinched, little to no urine output, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and electrolyte imbalance as a body loses minerals.
• Children, in addition to the above symptoms, may also experience extreme drowsiness, fever, convulsions or even coma.
Containment and Treatment for Cholera
The good news is that cholera is easily treatable and curable in 80 percent of cases.