Cholera Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms of cholera include vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle cramps. Although the signs and symptoms of this condition are generally mild, about 1 infected person out of 20 will have severe symptoms, such as increased heart rate, coma, and dehydration. With serious symptoms, complications can occur rapidly; therefore, if a person is experiencing these symptoms, he or she should see a healthcare provider immediately.
When a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause cholera (Vibrio cholerae), the bacteria begin to multiply within the intestines. After 24 to 48 hours, signs and symptoms of cholera can occur. The period between becoming infected and the start of cholera symptoms is known as the cholera incubation period.
An infection with Vibrio cholerae often doesn't result in symptoms, or it results in only mild symptoms. In some cases, however, symptoms can be severe. Severe signs and symptoms develop in approximately 1 out of every 20 infected people. These people may experience a rapid loss of body fluids, leading to dehydration and shock. Without cholera treatment, death can occur within hours.
Specific signs and symptoms can include:
- Muscle cramps.
- Stool that has a characteristic "rice-water" appearance -- grey, slightly cloudy with flecks of mucus, and a slightly sweaty odor (see Pictures of Cholera).
- Sudden onset and large amounts of watery diarrhea. Diarrhea is usually painless.
As fluid is lost, other cholera signs and symptoms can occur, including:
- Reduced urine production
- Increased heart rate
Fever is not a cholera symptom.