Edit concept Question Editor Create issue ticket



Cholera is an infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Main symptoms are painless watery diarrhea and vomiting, which lead to isotonic dehydration if untreated.


After a 24- to 48 hour incubation period, symptoms begin with the sudden onset of painless, watery diarrhea that may quickly become voluminous and is often followed by vomiting. The patient may experience abdominal cramps. Fever is typically absent [2] [6]. Most infections are mild to moderate and may not be clinically distinguishable from other causes of gastroenteritis. An estimated 5% of infected patients will develop cholera gravis, severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration [4] [5].
The symptoms of cholera include [5]:

  • Diarrhea: Stool volume during severe cholera is much more than that in any other infectious diarrhea. The characteristic cholera stool is an opaque white liquid that is not malodorous.
  • Vomiting: though a common symptom, may not always be present.
  • Dehydration: If untreated, the diarrhea and vomiting lead to isotonic dehydration, which can lead to acute renal failure, vascular collapse, shock, and death Dehydration can develop rapidly, within hours after the onset of symptoms.
  • Hypoglycemia: After dehydration, hypoglycemia is the most common lethal complication of cholera.
  • Acidemia: results when respiratory compensation is unable to sustain a normal blood pH. Cholera causes bicarbonate loss in stools, accumulation of lactate, and hyperphosphatemia.
  • Hypokalemia: results from potassium loss in the stool. Hypokalemia develops only after the acidosis is corrected.
  • ; yellow fever virus[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The clinical picture included fever, muscle, joint and abdominal pain, vomiting, serositis, hepatitis, suspected myocarditis, anaemia and thrombocytopenia. Clinical symptoms subsided spontaneously within two weeks.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • […] influential professionals in seven large Asian countries (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam) were conducted to survey opinions regarding the need for, and potential uses of new-generation vaccines against cholera, typhoid fever[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The authors describe the case of a fifty-nine-year-old white man, previously in good health, who initiated his present illness with acute episode of enterocolitis characterized by mild fever and, in the next eight hours, twenty-four episodes of watery[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • 2019 (effective 10/1/2018) : No change ICD-10-CM Codes Adjacent To A00 A00 Cholera A00.0 Cholera due to Vibrio cholerae 01, biovar cholerae A00.1 Cholera due to Vibrio cholerae 01, biovar eltor A00.9 Cholera, unspecified A01 Typhoid and paratyphoid fevers[icd10data.com]
  • Injected cholera vaccines did not cause significant increase in most individual systemic adverse effects (fever, malaise, headache) compared to active placebo, although they did cause increased malaise compared to inert placebo, and increased vomiting[doi.org]
  • The commonest reported symptoms following vaccination were: malaise (20% but only recorded in two trials), anorexia (12% but only recorded in three trials), headache (13%), abdominal pain (10%), fever (7%), diarrhoea (5%), vomiting (5%).[doi.org]
  • Safety and immunogenicity of a reformulated Vietnamese bivalent killed, whole-cell, oral cholera vaccine in adults. Vaccine. 2007 Jan 22; 25 (6):1149–1155. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ] 113.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • This solution is used throughout the world to treat diarrhea. During an epidemic, 80-90% of diarrhea patients can be treated by oral rehydration alone, but patients who become severely dehydrated must be given intravenous fluids.[web.archive.org]
  • Non-cholera diarrhea cases (test-negative controls and non-cholera diarrhea cases for bias-indicator analyses) had a negative culture and rapid test. Up to four community controls were matched to diarrhea cases by age group, time, and neighborhood.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • To our knowledge, a detailed case of V fluvialis diarrhea with cholera-like symptoms has not been reported.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Complications may include: Severe dehydration Death Call your health care provider if you develop severe watery diarrhea.[medlineplus.gov]
  • The patient's condition stabilized, with increased urinary output, and resolution of diarrhea, vomiting and dyspnea. Cholera, although rare in Taiwan, can be lethal if left untreated.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • We defined a case as any resident of Bashuri community two years and above with acute watery diarrhea with or without vomiting and a control as any resident two years and above without acute watery diarrhea and vomiting.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Vomiting: though a common symptom, may not always be present.[symptoma.com]
  • The first patient was a 23-year-old black African woman with a 2-day history of watery diarrhea and vomiting associated with a temperature of 39.7 C.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • You should suspect cholera in any patient presenting with severe watery diarrhea and vomiting with severe dehydration who may have recently traveled to a cholera-endemic area.[cdc.gov]
  • […] describe the case of a fifty-nine-year-old white man, previously in good health, who initiated his present illness with acute episode of enterocolitis characterized by mild fever and, in the next eight hours, twenty-four episodes of watery diarrhea, nausea[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Side-effects from Vaxchora are uncommon and may include tiredness, headache, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, and diarrhoea.[patient.info]
  • Symptoms Symptoms of cholera include abdominal cramps, nausea, rapid dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea.[vestergaard.com]
  • Symptoms: Sometimes the patient feels tired, then nausea, etc. The attack though is usually sudden, with nausea, vomiting, and cramp-like pains in the abdomen. The contents of the stomach are vomited.[oldtimeremedies.co.uk]
Rice Water Stool
  • Rice-water stool that naturally harbored lytic phage or in vitro derived V. cholerae were incubated in a pond microcosm, and the culturability, infectious dose, and transcriptome were assayed over 24 h.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • RESULTS: Of the 50 patients of Aeromonas-related acute gastroenteritis, 13 (26%) had typical features of cholera with rice water stools and severe dehydration. Eight patients (16%) had dysentery-like picture.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • At 14%, rice water stools were less frequent in period A than in period B and C (78% and 84%). Dehydration (31% vs 94% and 89%) and coma (0.4% vs 3.1% and 2.9%) were lower during period B than in periods A and C.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Transition from rice-water stool into the ABNC state in the aquatic environment is a process of adaptation to nutrient limitation ( Fig. 1 ).[doi.org]
  • The watery diarrhea is speckled with flakes of mucus and epithelial cells ("rice-water stool") and contains enormous numbers of vibrios. The loss of potassium ions may result in cardiac complications and circulatory failure.[textbookofbacteriology.net]
Acute Diarrhea
  • In the next 48 hours, L'Hôpital de Saint Nicolas received more than 1500 additional patients with acute diarrhea.[doi.org]
  • Among people who develop symptoms, about 80-90% of episodes are of mild or moderate severity and are difficult to distinguish clinically from other types of acute diarrhea.[paho.org]
  • When illness does occur, about 80-90% of episodes are of mild or moderate severity and are difficult to distinguish clinically from other types of acute diarrhea.[valneva.com]
  • Oral rehydration salts, zinc supplement and rota virus vaccine in the management of childhood acute diarrhea.[dx.doi.org]
  • He was admitted with severe hypotension and acute renal failure, but recovered with rapid rehydration. Vibrio cholerae O1 serotype Ogawa was isolated.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The clinical course and necropsy findings suggest that death was the result of a slowly evolving systemic anaphylactic reaction which terminated in hypotension and right heart failure. The deceased was probably atopic.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • She was admitted to the intensive care unit with hypotension and bradycardia. She was resuscitated after a large volume of fluid was administered. Approximately 22 liters of fluids were administered in 24 hours.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A healthy person may become hypotensive within an hour of the onset of symptoms and may die within 2-3 hours if no treatment is provided.[textbookofbacteriology.net]
  • Signs and symptoms include tachycardia, loss of skin turgor, dry mucous membranes, hypotension, and thirst. Additional symptoms, including muscle cramps, are secondary to the resulting electrolyte imbalances.[wwwnc.cdc.gov]
Decreased Skin Turgor
  • Signs of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance soon occur and include sunken eyes, lethargy, dry mouth, decreased skin turgor, wrinkled hands and feet and cold clammy skin. Kussmaul breathing and muscle cramping are seen in some.[orpha.net]
Muscle Cramp
  • Kussmaul breathing and muscle cramping are seen in some. In children, seizures, altered consciousness and coma can occur due to severe hypoglycemia. If left untreated, cholera can lead to severe dehydration, shock and death within hours.[orpha.net]
  • cramps If not treated, dehydration can lead to shock and death in a matter of hours.[webmd.com]
  • In children, seizures, altered consciousness and coma can occur due to severe hypoglycemia. If left untreated, cholera can lead to severe dehydration, shock and death within hours.[orpha.net]
  • Archived News Risk of febrile seizures and epilepsy after vaccination with diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, inactivated poliovirus, and Haemophilus influenzae type B Archived Event First annual meeting of the European Diphtheria Surveillance[ecdc.europa.eu]
  • It can even cause seizures and kidney failure. People who don't get the proper medical treatment may even die. What Causes Cholera? People get it from drinking water or eating food that's contaminated with a type of bacteria called Vibrio cholerae .[kidshealth.org]
  • In most instances the mental faculties are comparatively unaffected, although in the later stages there is in general more or less apathy. Reaction, however, may take place, and this constitutes the third stage.[en.wikisource.org]


Definitive diagnosis is not a prerequisite for the treatment of patients with cholera. Diagnosis is generally made from history, clinical observation, and physical exam.

Laboratory studies that confirm the diagnosis and guide treatment are:

  • Stool examination and culture: These tests may be worthwhile in areas where Vibrio cholerae is uncommon. Direct microscopic examination of stool (including dark-field examination), Gram stain, culture, and serotype/biotype are done.
  • Hematologic studies: Blood work is needed primarily to identify the extent and character of dehydration . Serum electrolytes, serum bicarbonate, and renal function tests should be included.


The priority in management of any watery diarrhea is replacing the lost fluid and electrolytes and providing an antimicrobial agent when indicated. The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the management of cholera are practical, easily understood, and readily applied. These guidelines can be used for the treatment of any patient with diarrhea and dehydration. Diagnosis of cholera is not required to initiate hydration therapy [4].
Rehydration is the first priority in the treatment of cholera. Rehydration is accomplished in 2 phases: rehydration and maintenance.

  • Rehydration: The goal of the rehydration phase is to restore normal hydration status, which should take no more than 4 hours. An intravenous infusion rate in severely dehydrated patients of 50-100 mL/kg/hr. Lactated Ringer solution is preferred over isotonic sodium chloride solution because saline does not correct metabolic acidosis [5].
  • Maintenance: The goal of the maintenance phase is to maintain normal hydration status by replacing ongoing losses. The oral route is preferred, and the use of oral rehydration solution (ORS) at a rate of 500-1000 mL/hr. is recommended [5].

A risk of over hydration exists with intravenous fluids. It usually first manifests as puffiness around the eyes. Continued excessive administration of intravenous fluids can lead to pulmonary edema and has been observed even in children with normal cardiovascular reserve. Thus, it is important to monitor patients who are receiving intravenous rehydration hourly. Serum-specific gravity is an additional measure of the adequacy of rehydration [5].

Antibiotic treatment is indicated for severely dehydrated patients who are older than 2 years. Begin antibiotic therapy after the patient has been rehydrated (usually in 4-6 h) and vomiting has stopped. Single-dose therapy with tetracycline, doxycycline, furazolidone, or ciprofloxacin has been shown effective in reducing the duration and volume of diarrhea. Because single dose doxycycline has been shown to be as effective as multiple doses of tetracycline, this has become the preferred regimen [5]. No other drugs should be used in the treatment of cholera.

Diet: Resume feeding with a normal diet when vomiting has stopped. Continue breastfeeding infants and young children. There is no reason to withhold food from cholera patients.


Before the development of effective regimens for replacing fluids and electrolyte losses, the mortality in severe cholera was more than 50% [5]. Mortality is higher in pregnant women and young children. Mortality rates are lowest where intravenous therapy is available. Average case fatality rates for Europe and the Americas continue to be about 1% [2] [3]. In Africa a marked decline in case fatality rates has occurred since 1970. However, Africa continues to have the highest reported case fatality rates (approximately 4% in 1999) compared with the rest of the world [4].


Cholera is an ancient disease, dating as far back as Hippocrates in Greece in the 5th century. The discovery of the cholera organism is credited to German bacteriologist, Robert Koch, who identified Vibrio cholerae in 1883 [5]. The seventh pandemic of cholera, and the first in the 20th century, began in 1961; by 1991 it had affected 5 continents. The pandemic continues today [5].

Cholera has been rare in industrialized nations-test for the past century, however, the disease is still common in areas with crowded living conditions and poor sanitation [5]. Epidemics occur after war, civil unrest, or natural disasters, when water and food supplies become contaminated with Vibro cholerae [2].

Cholera has 2 main reservoirs; humans and water. Transmission occurs almost exclusively via contaminated water or food [2]. Transmission via direct person-to-person contact is rare. Household contacts are the exception to this and occurrence through this means is approximately 10-30%. [3]. Asymptomatic carriers may have a role in transfer of disease in areas where the disease is not endemic. Although carriage usually is short-lived, a few individuals may excrete the organisms for a prolonged period [5]. Vibrio cholerae is rarely isolated from animals, and animals do not play a role in transmission of disease [2].

Malnutrition increases susceptibility to cholera. The incidence of cholera appears to be twice as high in people with type O blood. The reason for this increase is not known [5] [6]. An attack of the classic biotype of Vibrio cholerae usually results in the generation of antibodies that protect against recurrent infection by either biotype [7].


In the United States and other developed countries, because of advanced water and sanitation systems, cholera is not a major threat. Individuals living in the United States most often acquire cholera through travel to cholera-endemic areas or through consumption of undercooked seafood from the Gulf Coast or foreign waters. The incidence in the United States continues to be low, 0.50 cases per 100,000 population, with highest number documented in the age group older than 50 years of age [2]. The frequency of cholera among international travelers returning to the United States has averaged 1 case per 500,000 population [1] [2]. Between January 1, 1995, and December 31, 2000, 61 cases of cholera were reported in the United States. Thirty-seven were travel-associated cases; the other 24 cases were acquired in the United States [1] [3].

According to the WHO, the number of cases worldwide surged again in 2005. The actual global burden is estimated to be 3-5 million cases and 100,000-130,000 deaths per year [2] [3]. The cholera burden has grown strikingly during the past 4 years, and has spread to countries previously spared by this disease [6].

In non-endemic areas, the incidence of infection is similar in all age groups, although adults are less likely to become symptomatic than children. The exception is breastfed children, who are protected against severe disease because of less exposure and antibodies to cholera they obtain in breast milk [2] [6].

Sex distribution
Age distribution


Although more than 200 serogroups of Vibrio cholerae have been identified, Vibrio cholerae O1 and Vibrio cholerae O139 have been the principal ones associated with epidemic cholera. The current wave of endemic cholera is attributable to a new atypical El Tor strains. This new strain has caused the increase in incidence and deaths during the last 4 years [5] [6].

Vibrio cholera cause clinical disease by producing an enterotoxin that promotes the secretion of fluid and electrolytes into the lumen of the small intestine. Unless the lost fluid and electrolytes are replaced adequately, the infected person may develop shock from profound dehydration and acidosis from loss of bicarbonate. Because the organism is not acid-resistant, it depends on its large inoculum size to withstand gastric acidity. The use of antacids, histamine receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors increases the risk of cholera infection and predisposes patients to more severe disease as a result of reduced gastric acidity [5].


Widespread use of cholera vaccines began in the 1960s Most of the vaccines were composed of whole Vibrio cholerae cells, usually a mixture of serotypes, which were killed. The licensed, killed whole cell vaccines are injected and usually given in one or two doses. Injected (parenteral) whole cell vaccines have gone out of favor on the grounds that efficacy is thought to be low and short-lived. Even when injected cholera vaccines were in widespread use in the early 1970s, it was never determined whether an individual's protection was likely to interrupt transmission to others in the community [3] [4].

Recent cholera epidemics have shown that there is still a need for an effective vaccine against this major disease. Oral vaccines have been under development since the 1980s. Their strength is that they stimulate local intestinal immunity. Both killed and live oral vaccines are now licensed and the injected vaccine is no longer used [3].


Cholera is an intestinal infection caused by the Vibrio cholera bacteria. The primary symptom of the disease is profound watery diarrhea [1]. Severe cholera can cause dehydration and death within hours of onset. Cholera is transmitted by the fecal-oral route [1] [2]. Cholera can be endemic, epidemic, or pandemic. Despite all the advances in research, treatment and prevention the condition still remains a significant problem worldwide [2].

Cholera was a major cause of death in many countries in the past. Although epidemics are now less common, it remains an important cause of death in developing countries [2] [3]. Up to 40% of patients die if untreated [4].

The priority in management of any watery diarrhea is replacing the lost fluid and electrolytes and providing an antimicrobial agent when indicated.

Patient Information

What is Cholera?
Cholera is an acute infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholera, which causes severe diarrhea. It accounts for an estimated 3-5 million cases and over 100,000 deaths each year around the world. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but in approximately 5% of infected persons will become severely ill. Severe disease is characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, and vomiting leading to dehydration, hypovolemic shock and eventual death. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

Where is Cholera Found?
The cholera bacterium is found in water or food that has been contaminated by feces from a person infected with cholera. Cholera is found and spread in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene. Cholera is found endemically in India, sub-Saharan Africa, and most recently in Haiti.

Shellfish eaten raw have been a source of cholera, and a few persons in the U.S. have contracted cholera after eating raw or undercooked shellfish from the Gulf of Mexico.

How Does a Person Get Cholera?
A person can get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. The contamination is usually from the feces of an infected person. The disease is not likely to spread directly from one person to another, therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.
Travel to a region where cholera is endemic is a major risk to acquiring the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Cholera?
Cholera infection is characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. Symptoms typically appear in 2-3 days, but can occur in a few hours or as long as a week. Rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment death can occur within hours.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have Cholera?
If you think you may have cholera, seek medical attention immediately. Dehydration can be rapid so fluid replacement is essential.
To test for cholera, doctors must take a stool sample or a rectal swab and send it to a laboratory to look for the cholera bacterium.

What is the Treatment for Cholera?
Cholera can be successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and electrolytes with oral rehydration solution. This solution is used throughout the world to treat diarrhea. Severe cases may require intravenous fluid replacement. With prompt rehydration most patients recover without injury. Antibiotics shorten the course and severity of the illness, but they are not as important as rehydration.

How Can I Avoid Getting Cholera?
The risk to people visiting areas with epidemic cholera is very low if simple precautions are observed. These include:
Drink only bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water and carbonated beverages. When using bottled drinks, make sure that the seal has not been broken. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes.
Wash your hands often with soap and clean water. Clean your hands especially before you eat or prepare food and after using the bathroom. If no water and soap are available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner with at least 60% alcohol.
Use bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.
Eat foods that are packaged or that are freshly cooked and served hot. Do not eat raw and undercooked meats and seafood or unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
Dispose of feces in a sanitary manner to prevent contamination of water and food sources.

Is a Vaccine Available to Prevent Cholera?
Currently, there are two oral cholera vaccines available, Dukoral and ShanChol. The vaccine is a two dose vaccine given several weeks apart. Persons receiving the vaccine may not be protected in that time period. Therefore, vaccination should not replace standard prevention and control measures. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend cholera vaccines for most travelers, nor is the vaccine available in the U.S. This is because the available vaccines offer incomplete protection for a relatively short period of time.



  1. Steinberg EB, Greene KD, Bopp CA, Cameron DN, Wells JG, Mintz ED. Cholera in the United States, 1995-2000: trends at the end of the twentieth century. J Infect Dis. Sep 15 2001;184(6):799-802.
  2. Rajasingham A, Bowen A, O'Reilly C, Sholtes K, Schilling K, Hough C, Brunkard J, Domercant JW, Lerebours G, Cadet J, Quick R, Person B. Cholera prevention training materials for community health workers, Haiti, 2010-2011. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011 Nov;17(11):2162-5.
  3. Frerichs, R. R., Keim, P.S., Barrais, R. and Piarroux, R. (2012), Nepalese origin of cholera epidemic in Haiti. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 18: E158–E163.
  4. Global Task Force on Cholera Control. First steps for managing an outbreak of acute diarrhea. World Health Organization Publications,November 2010.
  5. Kenneth Todar, PhD. Vibrio cholerae and Asiatic Cholera in Todar's Online Textbook of Bacteriology. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
  6. Piarroux, R. and Faucher, B. (2012), Cholera epidemics in 2010: respective roles of environment, strain changes, and human-driven dissemination. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 18: 231–238.
  7. Graves PM, Deeks JJ, Demicheli V, Jefferson T. Vaccines for preventing cholera: killed whole cell or other subunit vaccines (injected). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD000974.

Ask Question

5000 Characters left Format the text using: # Heading, **bold**, _italic_. HTML code is not allowed.
By publishing this question you agree to the TOS and Privacy policy.
• Use a precise title for your question.
• Ask a specific question and provide age, sex, symptoms, type and duration of treatment.
• Respect your own and other people's privacy, never post full names or contact information.
• Inappropriate questions will be deleted.
• In urgent cases contact a physician, visit a hospital or call an emergency service!
Last updated: 2019-07-11 22:51