Why does cholera cause diarrhea


Pathogen: Vibrio cholerae bacterium

Distribution:especially in Asia, Africa, in America only in Haiti. Some countries in the world are considered to be cholera-endemic, and outbreaks of disease are possible after, for example, natural disasters. The disease hardly ever occurs in tourists. Above all, this affects locals in resource-poor countries who have low hygiene standards and no access to clean water.

Information about the current distribution can be found here (WHO).

Transmission:mostly through faecally contaminated drinking water, contaminated drinks and food (especially through raw marine animals). Cholera vibrios are excreted with the stool and end up in food and water if there are insufficient hygienic conditions (lack of water, sewage and waste hygiene). Direct transmission from person to person is less common.

Incubation period: a few hours to a maximum of five to ten days.

Complaints:In cholera, a distinction is made between a benign and a severe form:

  • benign course:affects 80 percent of all sick people; There are initially slight abdominal cramps, then watery diarrhea. The illness lasts two to five days. Due to the mild course, there are no disturbances in the fluid and electrolyte balance.
  • classic difficult course: massive rice water-like diarrhea, at the beginning mostly violent vomiting. Diarrhea causes up to half a liter of fluid and electrolytes to be lost per hour. If this amount is not adequately replaced, dehydration occurs (dry skin and mucous membranes, sunken eyeballs, flat pulse, low blood pressure, low temperature) and ultimately shock and kidney failure. If left untreated, severe cholera with severe diarrhea leads to death in up to 50 percent of cases.

Diagnosis: based on the complaints, pathogen detection in the stool.

Therapy:Immediate replacement of fluids and electrolytes (administration of drinking solutions enriched with minerals, oral rehydration solution from the WHO, drinking solution to prevent fluid loss) or through infusion therapy, antibiotics.

For more information on the preparation of drinking solutions, see Eating & Drinking Correctly When Traveling.

Prevention: Appropriate hygiene measures are essential. Oral vaccination is also available; this is recommended to travelers who move under very simple conditions and a hygiene situation that is difficult to assess in the distribution areas. It protects for about two years, but does not replace the necessary precautionary measures for food and drinking water hygiene!