Diarrhea Home > Causes of Cholera

The bacteria called Vibrio cholerae is what causes cholera. These bacteria typically get into food and water either naturally or from contaminated feces. A person needs to ingest a considerable amount of Vibrio cholerae in order to develop cholera symptoms.

What Causes Cholera?

Vibrio cholerae bacteria is the organism responsible for the disease cholera.

Understanding Vibrio Cholerae

There are two types of Vibrio cholerae:
  • Vibrio cholerae Serogroup non-O1
  • Vibrio cholerae Serogroup O1.
The type of Vibrio cholerae that are most often the causes of cholera is Vibrio cholerae Serogroup O1. Serogroup O139, a Vibrio cholerae Serogroup non-O1 bacteria, is also responsible for cholera.
Vibrio cholerae is native to the Ganges delta, which is in India and extends into Bangladesh. Since 1995, more than 80 percent of reported cases of Vibrio cholerae infections have occurred in Africa.
For the last 100 years, Vibrio cholerae infections have been rare in industrialized nations. In the United States, there are zero to five cases per year. Most infections in the United States have occurred in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico from contaminated shellfish.

Cholera Causes and Transmission

Cholera is usually transmitted by drinking water or eating food that is contaminated with Vibrio cholerae.
Vibrio cholerae usually gets into food or water in two ways:
  • Naturally
  • Contaminated feces.
Because casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill, cholera is not likely to spread directly from one person to another.
The cholera bacterium can live in the environment in brackish (saltwater) rivers and coastal waters. Shellfish, when eaten raw, have been a source of cholera. A few people in the United States have contracted the disease after eating raw or undercooked shellfish from the Gulf of Mexico.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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