What Is Cholera?
Vibrio cholerae is the bacterium that causes cholera. There are two major types:
Vibrio cholerae Serogroup O1 is the type that most often causes cholera.
(Click Cause of Cholera for more information.)
Transmission typically occurs by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with Vibrio cholerae.
There are two ways that Vibrio cholerae usually gets into food or water:
- Contaminated feces.
Casual contact with an infected person is not a major risk for becoming ill, because cholera rarely spreads directly from person to person.
(Click How Is Cholera Spread? to learn more.)
Once a person becomes infected with the bacteria that cause cholera, the bacteria begin to multiply within the intestines. Symptoms can occur within 24 to 48 hours of being infected. The period between becoming infected and the start of symptoms is called the incubation period.
Although cholera can be serious, most infections with Vibrio cholerae are mild or without symptoms. Approximately 1 in 20 infected people has severe symptoms. These people may experience a rapid loss of body fluids, leading to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
(Click Cholera Symptoms for more information.)