Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It causes painless, watery diarrhea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.
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Vomiting also occurs in most patients. Most persons infected with V. cholerae do not become ill, although the bacterium is present in their faeces for 7-14 days. When illness does occur, more than 90% cases are of moderate severity. Less than 10% of ill persons develop typical cholera with signs of moderate or severe dehydration. Cholera is spread by contaminated water and food. These bacteria are normally ingested by drinking water contaminated by improper sanitation or by eating improperly cooked fish; especially shellfish or any foods washed in contaminated water.

The resulting diarrhea allows the bacterium to spread to other people under unsanitary conditions. Sudden large outbreaks are usually caused by a contaminated water supply. Only rarely is cholera transmitted by direct person-to-person contact. It is mainly a disease of young children, although breastfeeding infants are rarely affected.

Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting along with thirst, muscle cramps, weakness, sunken eyes and wrinkled skin. Although cholera can be life-threatening, it is easily prevented and treated. Simple sanitation is usually sufficient to stop an epidemic.

Other sources of information for these topics.

DBMD - Cholera - General Information
FAQ on cholera from the Centers for Disease Control.

Cholera - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
... Cholera (also called Asiatic cholera) is an infectious disease of the ... When left untreated cholera generally has a high mortality rate. ...

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