Symptoms of Cholera
Most people exposed to the cholera bacterium (Vibrio cholerae) don’t become ill and don’t know they’ve been infected. But because they shed cholera bacteria in their stool for seven to 14 days, they can still infect others through contaminated water.
Most cases of cholera carry the symptom of mild or moderate diarrhoea that’s often hard to tell apart from diarrhoea caused by other problems. Others develop more-serious signs and symptoms of cholera, usually within a few days of infection.
Symptoms of cholera infection can include:
Cholera-related diarrhoea comes on suddenly and can quickly cause dangerous fluid loss — as much as a quart (about 1 litre) an hour. Diarrhoea due to cholera often has a pale, milky appearance that resembles water in which rice has been rinsed.
2. Nausea and vomiting
Vomiting occurs especially in the early stages of cholera and can last for hours.
Dehydration can develop within hours after cholera symptoms start and range from mild to severe. A loss of 10% or more of body weight indicates severe dehydration.
Signs and symptoms of cholera dehydration include irritability, fatigue, sunken eyes, a dry mouth, extreme thirst, dry and shrivelled skin that’s slow to bounce back when pinched into a fold, little or no urinating, low blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat.
Dehydration can lead to a rapid loss of minerals in your blood that maintain the balance of fluids in your body. This is called an electrolyte imbalance.
An electrolyte imbalance can lead to serious signs and symptoms such as:
These result from the rapid loss of salts such as sodium, chloride and potassium.
This is one of the most serious complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body. If untreated, severe hypovolemic shock can cause death in minutes.
When to see a doctor
The risk of cholera is slight in industrialized nations. Even in areas where it exists, you’re not likely to become infected if you follow food safety recommendations. Still, cases of cholera occur throughout the world. If you develop severe diarrhoea after visiting an area with active cholera, then it might be advisable for you to see your doctor.
If you have diarrhoea, especially severe diarrhoea, and think you might have been exposed to cholera, seek treatment right away. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency that requires immediate care.