Cholera in Africa
Updated: September 01, 2016
Travel Health Notice
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. People usually become infected from drinking or eating contaminated water or food. It is associated with watery diarrhea and rapid dehydration, which can be life-threatening.
Since January 2016, outbreaks of cholera have increased in East and Southern Africa with over 31 500 cases including over 530 deaths reported. For the latest information, please visit the World Health Organization's website.
The majority of cholera cases in Africa are being reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends practising safe food and water precautions while travelling in Africa, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.
Consult a 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
- Wash your hands with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible, including before eating or preparing food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. It's a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.
- Consider getting vaccinated
- Travellers to usual tourist areas that practise safe food and water precautions and good hand hygiene are at low risk. Travellers visiting areas with limited access to clean water, that do not follow proper hand hygiene precautions, or eat raw or poorly cooked food are at higher risk for cholera. Higher risk travellers may benefit from vaccination and should consult with a health care provider to discuss this option.
- If you develop severe diarrhea and/or vomiting while travelling or after you return to Canada
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Drink fluids and use oral rehydration salts to prevent dehydration.
- Infants, young children and the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at greatest risk of dehydration.
- Tell a flight attendant or the border services officer if you are ill while returning to Canada. They will notify a quarantine officer who can assess the symptoms and refer you for medical care.
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