Symptoms of Cholera
Common symptoms of cholera include watery diarrhea, vomiting, and muscle cramps. Within 24 to 48 hours of being infected with cholera-causing bacteria, symptoms can develop. In severe cases, it is possible for a person to experience more serious symptoms, such as a rapid loss of body fluids, that can lead to dehydration and shock.
When a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause cholera (Vibrio cholerae), the bacteria begin to multiply within the intestines. Cholera symptoms can occur within 24 to 48 hours of being infected. The period between becoming infected and the start of symptoms of cholera is called the cholera incubation period.
Although some cases are severe, infections with Vibrio cholerae are often mild or without symptoms. Approximately 1 in 20 infected people will have severe symptoms. These people may experience a rapid loss of body fluids, leading to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
Specific symptoms of cholera can include:
- Muscle cramps.
- Sudden onset and large amounts of watery diarrhea. Diarrhea is usually painless.
- Stool has a characteristic "rice-water" appearance -- grey, slightly cloudy with flecks of mucus, and a slightly sweaty odor (see Pictures of Cholera).
As fluid is lost, other symptoms can occur, including:
- Reduced urine production
- Increased heart rate
Fever is not a cholera symptom.