CAUTION: The Health Minister said Lusaka District has been put on Cholera Alert!
What is cholera? Cholera is an acute, diarrhea illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
What are the symptoms of cholera? Cholera infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in ten (5-10%) 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. It can take anywhere from a few hours to 5 days for symptoms to appear after infection. Symptoms typically appear in 2-3 days.
Where is cholera found? The cholera bacterium is usually found in water or food sources that have been contaminated by feces (poop) from a person infected with cholera. Cholera is most likely to be found and spread in places with inadequate water treatment, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene.
How does a person get cholera? A person can get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the cholera bacterium. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person that contaminates water and/or food. 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.
What is the treatment for cholera? Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement. Antibiotics shorten the course and diminish the severity of the illness, but they are not as important as receiving rehydration.
How can I avoid getting cholera? The risk for cholera is very low for people visiting areas with epidemic cholera. When simple precautions are observed, contracting the disease is unlikely. All people (visitors or residents) in areas where cholera is occurring or has occurred should observe the following recommendations:
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