Updated: May 26
If someone contracts cholera, they should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible. Losing a lot of fluid via diarrhea or vomiting can have devastating effects, especially for young children and older adults. Extreme dehydration can lead to shock or seizures.
What kind of fluids are given?
Oral rehydration solution is the first line of treatment for most people that come down with cholera. The World Health Organization has a mixture that is dissolved in a liter of clean water. Several liters are usually needed to help rehydrate someone with cholera.
Patients who have been experiencing cholera symptoms for a longer period of time may be severely dehydrated. They are treated with IV fluids and antibiotics. This helps to decrease how long they have diarrhea and the amount of cholera bacteria excreted in their feces.
With prompt treatment, cholera fatality is less than 1%. In many rural areas, it can be difficult for residents to find oral rehydration solutions and have access to doctors.
How does zinc help?
For children under five years old, zinc supplementation can help decrease how many days the diarrhea lasts. The World Health Organization recommends 10-20 mg of zinc per day to reduce the number of episodes of diarrhea.
Beyond helping with cholera symptoms, zinc is also being studied for its use in other illnesses that cause diarrhea. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that people should now be screened for a zinc deficiency.
Foods high in zinc are oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, crab, lobster, whole grains, and dairy products. People with a zinc deficiency can have a loss of taste or smell, hair loss, loss of appetite, and more.
Best ways to prevent cholera
If someone consumes bad food or water, it would take 12 hours - 5 days for symptoms to appear. Bacteria can be present in feces for 1-10 days after infection and could infect close family members.
High risk areas for cholera include refugee camps and anywhere there is overcrowding and lack of facilities. The best ways to prevent cholera are to survey for outbreaks, keep sanitation and hygiene standards high, increase access to clean water, and use oral cholera vaccines.
Proper hygiene education can decrease a variety of other illnesses and achieve other goals. Vaccination is usually a series of doses over time which can help prevent person-to-person spread. Cholera is a global health issue that is easily treatable, but major health organizations are continually studying and experimenting with preventive measures.
If you are traveling to a country with cholera outbreaks, consider getting the oral cholera vaccine before you go. Make an appointment at Away Clinic to get vaccinated and protected!