What is cholera?
Cholera is a bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal system
What are the symptoms?
Cholera symptoms vary in severity
Some people can be infected but have little to no symptoms
Moderately infected individuals will experience rapid onset of diarrhea which is sometimes accompanied by vomiting and possible dehydration
Severe cholera is characterized by profuse, watery diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and possible kidney failure
Other symptoms include muscle cramps, reduced urination, sunken eyes, dry mouth, increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure
If left untreated, cholera is often fatal as a result of severe dehydration
How can I contract it?
From contaminated food or water
Cholera can spread rapidly in areas where drinking water and sewage are not properly treated
Where can I contract cholera?
Cases occur in developing countries and there have been outbreaks in Africa, Asia, India, and Central and South America
Most travellers are at low risk, however the risk increases for travellers who do not take adequate food and water precautions and relief workers who travel to areas where there are known outbreaks
What vaccines are available?
Dukoral is the only cholera vaccine available in Canada
Dukoral® does not treat cholera that has already developed and does not provide 100% protection as there are multiple strains
However it covers the majority
How many doses will I need?
Adults and children aged 6+ need 2 doses, at least 1 week apart
Dukoral® takes a week after the second dose has been administered to be effective so take your first dose at least 2 weeks before you travel
Side effects are infrequent, but may include mild abdominal discomfort
Do not take Dukoral® if you have a fever, acute gastrointestinal disease, immune system disease or if you are pregnant or are allergic to Dukoral® or its components
Will I need a booster?
Dukoral® is effective against cholera for 2 years
How can I prevent cholera?
Frequent hand-washing and food and water safety precautions are the best ways to prevent a cholera infection
If you are travelling to areas where tap water may not be safe to drink and bottled beverages are not available, be prepared to purify your own drinking water
You can also boil water, use filters and/or water purification tablets or drops
Avoid raw or undercooked shellfish and fish
What is the treatment for cholera?
Mainly rehydration, orally or intravenously
Antibiotics are sometimes used
Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to dehydration
Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol, caffeine and dairy products as these may make your symptoms worse
You can also use an oral rehydration solution (ORS)
These solutions contain water and mineral salts to replenish fluids and electrolytes as well as glucose or other simple carbohydrates to enhance absorption