What is Cholera?
Cholera is a bacterial disease that is caused by consuming food or water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. During the 19th century, cholera spread across the world from its original reservoir in the Ganges delta in India. Six subsequent pandemics killed millions of people across all continents. The current (seventh) pandemic started in South Asia in 1961, and reached Africa in 1971 and the Americas in 1991. Cholera is now endemic in many countries.
An estimated 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths occur each year around the world. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in ten infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. 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.