With news of suspected cholera cases in Meru, the following information is important to remember:
- Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.
- Researchers have estimated that each year there are 1.3 million to 4.0 million cases of cholera, and 21 000 to 143 000 deaths worldwide due to cholera
- Cholera is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera.
Most people infected with V. cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for 1-10 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.
Most symptomatic cases of cholera cause mild or moderate diarrhea that is often hard to distinguish from diarrhea caused by other problems.
Only about 1 in 10 infected people develops more-serious signs and symptoms of cholera, usually within a few hours/days of infection (12 hours to 5 days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water).
Symptoms of cholera infection include:
Acute watery diarrhea. Diarrhea due to cholera often has a pale, milky appearance that resembles water in which rice has been rinsed (rice-water stool).
- Nausea and vomiting:
- Dehydration: Signs and symptoms of cholera dehydration include irritability, lethargy, sunken eyes, a dry mouth, extreme thirst, dry and shriveled skin that is slow to bounce back when pinched into a fold, little or no urine output, low blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
- Electrolyte imbalance: Dehydration may lead to a rapid loss of minerals in the blood that maintain the balance of fluid in the body.
An electrolyte imbalance can lead to serious signs and symptoms such as:
- Muscle cramps.
- Shock: This is one of the most serious complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body. If untreated, severe hypovolemic shock can cause death in a matter of minutes.
The most common sources of cholera infection are water and certain types of food, including raw fruits and vegetables, and grains. Therefore,
- Wash hands with soap and water frequently,especially after using the toilet and before handling food. Rub soapy, wet hands together for at least 15 seconds before rinsing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Drink only safe water,boiled or disinfected/treated water. Use safe water even to brush your teeth. Hot beverages are generally safe, as are canned or bottled drinks, but wipe the outside before you open them. Avoid adding ice to your beverages unless if it was made using safe water.
- Eat food that is completely cooked and hotand avoid street vendor food, if possible.
- Stick to fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself,such as bananas, oranges and avocados. Stay away from salads and fruits that cannot be peeled, such as grapes and berries.
- Be wary of dairy foods,including ice cream, which is often contaminated and unpasteurized milk.