If treatment is started in a timely manner, and in adequate volumes, the cholera mortality rate is reduced to well under 1 percent. Without proper treatment, the mortality rate is between 25 and 50 percent.
In the United States, cholera was prevalent in the 1800s, but has been virtually eliminated by modern sewage and water treatment systems. However, as a result of improved transportation, more people from the United States are traveling to parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where an epidemic is occurring. For these people, prevention involves avoiding contaminated food and water.
At this point, a vaccine is not recommended for the prevention of this disease.
(Click Prevention of Cholera for more information.)
Since 1817, there have been seven worldwide cholera pandemics. There is an ongoing global pandemic in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that has lasted for the last four decades. Since 1995, over 80 percent of reported cases have occurred in Africa.
This illness has been very rare in industrialized nations for the last 100 years. In the United States, there are zero to five cases per year. Most outbreaks in the United States have occurred in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, from contaminated shellfish.
In 2003, 111,575 cholera cases from 45 countries were reported to the World Health Organization.
Cholera affects more children than adults, and usually occurs during summer and fall months.