< 1 min read

Type: Bacterial

Geography: Africa, Southeast Asia

Cases Per Year: 3 to 4 million

Fatality Rate: 1% to 15%

First Discovered: 1817 in the Ganges Delta in India; Filippo Pacini and Robert Koch later discovered the bacterial cause of cholera

Cholera is caused by an infection of the intestine by a bacterium and is spread by ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated by feces of an infected person. It is most likely to be spread and found in places with inadequate water treatment, sanitation, and hygiene. 

Cholera infection is often mild or asymptomatic, but around 10% to 20% of infected people have severe symptoms, including watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. This loss of fluid leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours. Symptoms usually appear in 2 to 3 days, but they can take from a few hours to 5 days to appear. Treatment includes oral rehydration solution, a prepackaged mixture of sugar and salts to be mixed with 1 liter of water. 

Photo: Vibrio bacterium – Electron micrograph.