Without medical help, death comes within hours of symptom onset.

Cholera shows no symptoms during the 3-5 day incubation period. Without treatment, the patient can lose more than 50 litres of fluid during a cholera attack. An untreated person dies of dehydration. After losing fluids of 10% - 15% of total weight, death usually comes within hours.

Cholera most often threatens illiterate and poor people living near polluted water, who don’t boil water before consumption. Without medical help, death comes within hours of symptom onset.

Where are the greatest risks of outbreaks?

Outbreaks spread rapidly mainly in congested communities and in living conditions where access to clean water, waste collection, and toilet facilities is insufficient. Due to population displacement, the destruction of infrastructure, or the lack of public services, cholera is a serious risk following a natural disaster or conflict. The situation may be particularly problematic in the rainy season, when houses and toilets flood and contaminated water accumulates in large areas.

Rehydration and antibiotics are essential and must be administered immediately.

Only a rapid reaction can prevent the spread of a cholera outbreak. Fast deployment of health promotion activities – educating people on how to help reduce the spread – along with clean water and sanitation, and setting up treatment centres and vaccination as part of the emergency response, can all help reduce the spread of the epidemic and decrease the number of those who fall sick or die.

While an oral vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing cholera during an outbreak, current strategies requiring two doses are logistically difficult in an emergency. Based on previous experience and scientific evidence, we know that a single dose strategy for an oral cholera vaccine is not only safe but also easy to implement, and can prevent or reduce the spread of the disease even during the epidemic.

Fighting cholera is relatively simple in most cases. People who suffer from mild to moderate forms are able to recover quickly with fluid and oral rehydration salts treatment. Extremely dehydrated patients may require intravenous fluids and hospitalization. In these cases, they should be admitted to a cholera treatment centre. If left untreated, the cholera mortality rate can reach 50%; with adequate medical care it’s less than 2%.

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