Cholera is an infection that is caused by a bacterium known as Vibrio cholerae, which attacks the small intestines. This disease is extremely contagious, especially in areas where there is poor sanitation or during disasters such as floods. It is capable of killing people who are infected within hours in severe cases if it is not treated promptly.
According to research statistics, an approximate of a million to four million cases of cholera infections are reported yearly. The annual number of deaths due to cholera can range from twenty thousand to an eighth of a million.
Cholera affects adults and children, as well as men and women alike. Therefore, cholera is a disease that can affect anyone. However, there are people who are more prone to getting it than others. There are places where cholera is endemic. In other areas, it breaks out as an epidemic.
"Endemic" means that a particular disease is native to the place. There have been several cholera outbreaks in the past that have caused deaths in thousands or even in millions. Cholera epidemics usually arise in areas with poor sanitation and scarce resources like water and toilets.
The areas that have been affected by wars, natural disasters, poverty, or any other factors that force people to overcrowd are the most prone to massive outbreaks of cholera. The reason is that such places will most likely have poor sanitation and means of waste disposal more so feces. The bacteria that cause cholera will thrive under such conditions.
Cholera is mainly transmitted through contaminated food and water. Flies are the main carriers of the bacteria to the food. When they land on the food, they contaminate it, and whoever eats the food, also gets infected. Eating an undercooked food will also make people get infected if the bacteria were present in the meal.
Contaminated water also helps in spreading the disease. Basically, human feces are the carriers of Vibrio cholerae. When clean water gets into contact with the bacteria, it becomes contaminated. Anyone who drinks such water or uses it to cook food gets infected.
Who is more prone to the infection?
Cholera is a highly communicable disease. Aside from living in areas where there are epidemics or factors that favor its spread, the following people are more likely to be infected:
Kids like playing a lot. They can carry out their games near sewers, pits, around latrines, and at times, as they play with water, their games can be held in ponds. All these are the places that are prone to have the bacteria that cause cholera.
Therefore, children get exposed to factors that aid in the spread of the disease more than adults. When they come into contact with the contaminated water, the likelihood that they will get cholera is very high. The reason is that some will suck their fingers afterward or eat food without washing their hands. Through unhygienic practices, they will introduce the bacteria into their bodies.
2. Careless Doctors and Nurses
Careless doctors and nurses who handle cholera patients are also likely to get the disease. The reason is that some of the healthcare professionals do not observe maximum caution when dealing with their patients, e.g., not wearing gloves. Eating food without washing their hands after handling the patients also heightens their risk of getting infected.
3. Family Members and Friends of Victims
When people get sick, the closest around them are the ones who take care of them. Such people may include friends or family, which makes them prone to getting infected, too.
Parts of the World that Are Most Affected by Cholera
The parts of the world that are most affected by cholera are:
- South-East Asia
- Some parts of Africa
- Central America
- Central Mexico
These areas are heavily populated and the levels of sanitation are extremely low. These areas are able to provide a suitable place for the bacteria to exist and multiply.
How does cholera cause death?
When the bacteria get inside your body, they cause diarrhea that can be very violent in some cases. Severe diarrhea results to dehydration of the body. In severe cases, the blood pressure drops and infected people go into a state of shock. If they do not receive medical attention quickly, death occurs within hours.
What are the symptoms of cholera?
People with cholera show symptoms differently. Some may experience symptoms within a few hours after infection, while in others, symptoms may begin to show after several days. The symptoms of cholera may include:
- very watery diarrhea (main symptom)
- muscle cramps can also occur at times
- diarrhea that usually leads to an excessive loss of water from the body (dehydration)
Dehydration can cause the following conditions:
- development of wrinkles on the hands and feet
- the skin becoming less elastic
- sunken eyes
People who experience severe dehydration will require an immediate correction of the fluid imbalance in their body. Therefore, they have to be hydrated in order to prevent any further damage or complications.
Tips on How to Minimize the Risks of Getting Cholera
One of the ways used to control cholera is the use of a vaccine. However, vaccination is not a guarantee, as the vaccine does not usually last for long. That is why it becomes necessary to avoid getting infected with cholera. There are a number of things that you can do to lower your chances of being infected by the disease. Listed below are tips on how to prevent a cholera infection:
- Parents should always be aware of their kids’ activities. They should keep track of where they spend their time and make sure that it is not in areas where they are likely to pick up the bacteria. The levels of hygiene should also be very high. They should make sure that the kids wash their hands before they eat and after they use the toilet.
- Implementing high standards of sanitation and hygiene also make you less likely to get infected.
- Doctors, nurses, or any other medical practitioners who handle patients with cholera should also exercise caution by using protective gears such as gloves. They should also observe high levels of sanitation.
- Any friends or relatives around a person with cholera should also be careful in how they carry out themselves, especially on hygiene issues.
The Bottom Line
Cholera is a water-borne disease. Since this bacteria will more likely be transmitted through water, it is very important to be careful when using water in areas that are prone to the disease. Drinking water should be well-boiled and food should also be cooked properly. These precautions will help ensure that the bacteria are killed by the heat.
The main issue is for hygiene to be exercised at the highest of levels. If it is possible, avoid areas that prone to the disease. If you cannot avoid these places, then following the above-given tips should allow you a better chance at avoiding the disease.
Anyone can get cholera and children are the ones that are most likely to get infected. Thus, keep an eye on your kids and should they show any symptoms, visit a medical facility as quickly as possible as they can get worse quickly and even die.