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Diseases & Topics


Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The bacterium is usually found in water or food sources, including shellfish, that have been contaminated by feces from a person infected with cholera. Most cases reported in the United States each year occur in people who have recently travelled to areas where cholera is common, and where they either ate contaminated food or drank water that was not properly treated.

An estimated three to five million cholera cases and over 100,000 deaths occur each year around the world. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Without treatment, people with severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting from cholera can rapidly lose body fluids and die within hours.

Although cholera can be life-threatening, it is easily prevented and treated. In the United States, because of advanced water and sanitation systems, cholera is not a major threat; however, the disease is still common today in other, less developed parts of the world. Everyone, especially travelers, should be aware of how the disease is transmitted and what can be done to prevent it.

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