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 Cholera as defined by N.I.H. - cholerae

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea.


Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The bacteria releases a toxin that causes increased release of water from cells in the intestines, which produces severe diarrhea.

Cholera occurs in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine. Common locations for cholera include:

  • Africa

  • Asia

  • India

  • Mexico

  • South and Central America

People get the infection by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

A type of vibrio bacteria also has been associated with shellfish, especially raw oysters.

Risk factors include:

  • Exposure to contaminated or untreated drinking water

  • Living in or traveling to areas where there is cholera


Note: Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

Signs and tests

Tests that may be done include:


The goal of treatment is to replace fluid and electrolytes lost through diarrhea. Depending on your condition, you may be given fluids by mouth or through a vein (intravenous, or IV). Antibiotics may shorten the time you feel ill. Antibiotics that may be used includetetracycline or doxycline.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed an oral rehydration solution that is cheaper and easier to use than the typical IV fluid. This solution is now being used internationally.

Expectations (prognosis)

Severe dehydration can cause death. Given adequate fluids, most people will make a full recovery.


  • Severe dehydration

  • Death

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if :

  • You develop severe watery diarrhea

  • You have signs of dehydration, including:

    • Dry mouth

    • Dry skin

    • "Glassy" eyes

    • Lethargy

    • No tears

    • Rapid pulse

    • Reduced or no urine

    • Sunken eyes

    • Thirst

    • Unusual sleepiness or tiredness