Diarrhea Home > What Is Cholera?

Cholera is an intestinal infection that is characterized by diarrhea and rapid fluid loss. It is usually spread by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with the bacteria that cause the disease. Treatment usually includes antibiotics and fluid replacement.

Cholera: An Overview

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by an infection with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae in the intestines. While the disease can be serious -- even life-threatening -- the infection is often mild or without symptoms and can be easily prevented and treated.
Because of advanced water and sanitation systems, cholera is not a major threat in the United States. However, everyone, especially travelers, should be aware of how the disease is transmitted and what can be done to prevent it.

How Common Is It?

Since 1817, there have been seven worldwide cholera pandemics. There is an ongoing pandemic in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that has spanned the past four decades. Since 1995, over 80 percent of reported cases have occurred in Africa.
Cholera has been 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 due to contaminated shellfish in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2003, 111,575 cholera cases from 45 countries were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Epidemics usually take place during summer and fall months. The disease is more likely to occur in children than adults.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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