Causes of Cholera
A bacterium called Vibrio cholerae causes cholera infection. The deadly effects of the disease are the result of a toxin the bacteria produces in the small intestine. The toxin causes the body to secrete enormous amounts of water, leading to diarrhoea and a rapid loss of fluids and salts (electrolytes).
Cholera bacteria might not cause illness in all people who are exposed to them, but they still pass the bacteria in their stool, which can contaminate food and water supplies.
Contaminated water supplies are the main source of cholera infection.
The bacterium can be found in:
Surface or well water
Contaminated public wells are frequent sources of large-scale cholera outbreaks. People living in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation are especially at risk.
Eating raw or undercooked seafood, especially shellfish that comes from certain places can expose you to cholera bacteria.
Raw fruits and vegetables
Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables are a frequent source of cholera infection in areas where there’s cholera. In developing countries, uncomposted manure fertilizers or irrigation water containing raw sewage can contaminate produce in the field.
In regions where cholera is widespread, grains such as rice and millet that are contaminated after cooking and kept at room temperature for several hours can grow cholera bacteria.
Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera, is usually found in food or water contaminated by faeces from a person with the infection.
Common sources include:
· Municipal water supplies
· Ice made from municipal water
· Foods and drinks sold by street vendors
· Vegetables grown with water containing human wastes
· Raw or undercooked fish and seafood caught in waters polluted with sewage
When a person consumes the contaminated food or water, the bacteria release a toxin in the intestines that produces severe diarrhoea.
It is not likely you will catch cholera just from casual contact with an infected person.