The World Health Organization defines cholera as an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill in a matter of hours if left untreated. People living in developing countries, particularly those suffering from poverty, inequality, and poor hygiene, are most at risk. The risk of cholera rises in emergencies where sanitation systems are inadequate or crowded.
Cholera is caused by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with a bacterium known as Vibrio cholera. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, and watery diarrhœa. In its most severe form, people experience a sudden onset of acute watery diarrhea which may lead to death as a result of severe dehydration. While dehydration and reduced circulation are the worst complications of cholera; however, other problems can arise, such as:
Hypoglycemia: when sugar (glucose) levels, the primary energy source of the body, can drop dangerously low because the patients weren’t eating because of tiredness. Children are at greater risk of this condition; it causes convulsions, loss of consciousness, and even death.
Low potassium levels: Cholera patients lose large amounts of minerals to their stool, especially potassium. Low potassium levels affect cardiac and nervous function Which puts life in jeopardy.
Kidney failure: When the kidneys lose their filtration capacity, excess liquids, certain electrolytes, and waste products accumulate in the body and can be life-threatening. In patients with cholera, kidney failure is often associated with hemostasis.
According to the World Health Organization, there are about 1.3 million to 4 million cases in the world every year, with 21,000 to 143,000 deaths. Cholera is widespread in poor sanitation regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, south and southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Serious cholera epidemics can result from serious catastrophes, such as hurricanes or earthquakes. This is because they disturb existing water systems, which results in mixing drinking water and wastewater and increases the risk of cholera infecting others. Cholera, like other water-borne illnesses, can spread if food, and water, in particular, are contaminated by the feces of an infected person. The incubation period is very short, between 2 hours and 5 days. This means that cases can spread quite rapidly.
About 75% of people infected with cholera are symptomless. However, their feces are contagious for 7-14 days and are excreted in the environment, where they may infect other people. Cholera affects both children and adults, and unlike other diarrhoeal diseases, it can kill healthy adults in just a few hours. It also threatens people with compromised immune systems, such as children suffering from malnutrition or people living with HIV, who are at risk of dying.
Cholera can be easily treated by rapidly ingesting oral rehydration salts to replace lost liquids. However, if not treated, it can kill quickly after symptoms appear, so increased awareness and prevention methods are essential. Ensuring that people have constant access to clean and safe water is critical to preventing water-borne diseases such as cholera. A safe solution is to build pumped wells to ensure that the water flowing into the aquifers is clean.