Cholera is a gastroenteritis disease and highly infectious. Vibrio cholerae is the name of the bacteria that is responsible for this disease. It is one of the most rapid acting illnesses known. When it is severe, a healthy person’s blood pressure can drop to hypotensive levels within an hour.
The disease can progress very fast. Death can occur within three hours after getting infected if the person does not receive treatment.
Vibrio cholerae is a Gram-negative bacteria and this produces cholera toxin, which acts on the lining of the small intestine which leads to exhaustive diarrhea. Cholera toxin increases the secretion of water and chloride ions in the intestine and this produces diarrhea. This leads to severe dehydration and can cause death.
Aquatic environments are the reservoirs for these bacteria. Cholera occurs in epidemics due to poor sanitation, crowding, famine and war. It gets transmitted to humans by eating food or drinking water contaminated with Vibrio cholerae. Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean, South and Central America and Mexico are the areas where these bacteria are known to be present and a cholera outbreak can start when the conditions are favorable for the bacteria.
From the time of infection till the symptoms develop is known as the incubation period and in the case of cholera it is 24 to 72 hours. The severity of the symptoms depends on the number of bacteria ingested.
The treatment is through oral rehydration therapy or ORT. Water and electrolytes are to be replaced promptly to overcome their depletion. Even home made solutions using water, sugar, table salt and baking soda can be used. In extreme cases intravenous solutions may be required. Antibiotics are used in case the symptoms are too severe.
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