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Cholera: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

08 August, 2020 Sabah Tyagi

Cholera is one of the infectious bacterial disease caused by the consumption of contaminated water and food. The causative bacteria of the disease is vibrio cholera. It results in frequent watery diarrhoea which in turn cause dehydration. If left untreated; it may lead to mortality of the individual. It is one of the endemic types of the infection, where the cases are limited to the certain geographical area of the contaminated water. Water sources like a pond, lake, etc. may get contaminated with the bacterium. This water when consumed paves for the bacteria to enter the human body, and colonize itself as in Typhoid.

Cholera was one of the prevalent diseases before the introduction of the proper sewage and drainage system. The contaminated water of sewage when letting into the open water sources like lakes, ponds would result in the contamination of the potable water sources. Edible items washed with this contaminated water also result in infection. According to WHO reports, 1.3 million – 4 million cholera cases comes into the picture every year.

The areas of poor sanitation, war, crowding and famine are the common places for the outbreak of the disease. Cholera is one among the infectious bacterial diseases like Tetanus, Leprosy, etc.

3MEDS-online medicine store in India, briefs about the symptoms, causes and treatment of cholera.

Causes of Cholera:

The main causative agent is the bacterium vibrio cholera. The organism is very actively motile with a single polar flagellum and movement is named as darting motility. It is aerobic in nature. The effects of the bacteria are due to the release of the toxin. The toxin is known as enterotoxin which is heat-labile. This toxin binds to the receptor on the intestinal epithelial cell. The cAMP concentration within the cells causes hyper-secretion of water and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, bicarbonate within the intestinal lumen and inhibition of reabsorption of sodium and chloride by the cells, which results in purging diarrhoea of rice-water stool.

Cholera may not infect every human being. Few may become the carrier of the infection. These carriers pass bacteria in the stools for seven to fourteen days without showing the symptoms of the illness. The human infection occurs by the ingestion of the contaminated foods and drink. These bacteria ass through the acid barrier of the stomach and multiply in the alkaline medium of the small intestine.

The bacterium can be found in the surface or well water, seafood, grains, and raw fruits and vegetables.

Risk Factors:

  • Areas of poor sanitation: places affected by the wars, famine, natural disasters, refugee camps are overly crowded with less hygiene. This results in flourishing of the bacteria and hence, the infection.
  • People with alkaline pH of the stomach: this bacterium cannot survive in the acidic medium. However, children, older adults, and people with the intake of antacids are at higher risk of developing cholera.
  • Seafood, especially raw, or uncooked shellfish may lead to the disease due to contamination.
  • Although unclear, people with O blood group develop twice the other people.


Depending on the immunity, the bacteria may not produce symptoms in few individuals. These people are infected but do not show the symptoms. The bacteria are shed in the stools and possess a high chance of infection to the person who comes in close contact.

Infection usually ranges from mild to moderate in severity, except in some cases where it takes the Draconian form within a few days. Symptoms include,

· Diarrhoea: there is an extreme loss of fluids approximately 1 litre per hour. This results in electrolyte imbalance in the body. The diarrhoea has a typical appearance of rice water. Also, known as rice water stools.

· Rapid heart rate

· Skin elasticity is lost

· Dryness of the skin, mucous membrane

· Dehydration results in fatigue, irritability, and low blood pressure, little or no urination.

· Thirst

· Nausea

· Vomiting


The enormous loss of water and electrolytes by the action of enterotoxin results in,

  • · Dehydration causing haemoconcentration, anuria and hypovolemic shock
  • · Base-deficit acidosis
  • · Muscle cramps due to hypokalaemia.
  • · Better provision for sewage disposal
  • · Infected people must be isolated, their excreta disinfected
  • · Follow-up of contacts and carriers
  • · Immunization with cholera vaccine.

Treatment Involves

Oral rehydration therapy:

Administration of water using simple ORS solution can restore the fluid and electrolyte loss. It can be ordered from 3MEDS-best pharmacy store in India. In life-threatening cases, intravenous fluids may be administered.


Tetracycline is useful in reducing the number of stool, and it also shortens the period of excretion of vibrio.


I would conclude by implying that the cholera is preventable if paid immediate attention. Following good sanitary practices will reduce the number of infection. Avoid going to crowded areas. Rinse your hands often with soap and water. The Incidence of cholera have greatly reduced at present. Stay clean and safe.