Related Travel Health Notices
What is cholera?
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is spread by drinking or eating contaminated water or food.
Bacterium Vibrio cholerae
Risk to travellers
Most travellers are at low risk even in countries where cholera outbreaks occur, if they practise good personal hygiene and safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk include those who drink or eat contaminated water or food, in particular undercooked or raw seafood such as shellfish and fish.
Humanitarian relief workers and those visiting areas of high risk with limited access to safe water and food are also at increased risk.
In severe cholera cases, the fatality rate can range from 50% or more for patients who do not receive treatment. The fatality rate for those who receive proper treatment is less than 1%.
Practise safe food and water precautions
Higher risk travellers should consult a health care provider to discuss the benefits of getting vaccinated before travel.
The most important treatment is rehydration. Carry oral rehydration salts while travelling.
In severe cases, antibiotics can help shorten the duration of the illness.
- Most infected people do not show any symptoms.
- Symptoms usually include mild to moderate diarrhea with or without vomiting.
- Can take from a few hours to five days to appear.
- In more severe cases, it causes frequent watery diarrhea which can lead to severe dehydration and even death if not treated promptly.
- Cholera is spread through contaminated food and water, including undercooked or raw seafood such as shellfish and fish.
- Eating or drinking food or water contaminated by infected persons.
- Exposure to the feces of an infected person.
- Cholera can spread very quickly in areas where sewage and drinking water are poorly treated.
Where is cholera a concern?
- Cholera occurs most commonly in regions of the world where there is inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene, overcrowding and a lack of safe water and food.
- The risk of cholera can increase following disaster situations due to the disruption of water and sanitation systems or the displacement of populations to overcrowded camps.
- Cholera continues to occur in many developing countries in Africa and Asia and to a lesser extent in Central and South America.
- For a map of areas reporting outbreaks and imported cases of cholera see Cholera 2010-2011 on the World Health Organization website.
Consult a doctor, nurse or health care provider, or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
- Practise safe food and water precautions
- Wash your hands frequently
- Consider getting vaccinated
- Most travellers to countries affected by cholera are at low risk; however those who may be at high risk (humanitarian relief workers and travellers visiting areas of high risk with limited access to safe water and food) should consult a health care provider to discuss the benefits of getting vaccinated.
- Carry oral rehydration salts
- If you are travelling to areas where cholera occurs, oral rehydration salts can help to fight dehydration in cases of severe diarrhea. Oral rehydration salts are available at pharmacies.
- If you develop severe diarrhea and vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.
- Assistance - Sickness or Injury
- Insect Bite Prevention
- Returning to Canada - If you get sick
- Cholera, World Health Organization (WHO)
- Statement on New Oral Cholera and Travellers' Diarrhea Vaccination (2005), Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT)
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