Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by eating or drinking food or water that is contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Cholera remains a global threat to public health and is an indicator of inequity and lack of social development. Researchers have estimated that every year, there are 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera, and 21 000 to 143 000 deaths worldwide due to the infection.
Cholera is an extremely serious disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhoea with severe dehydration. It takes between 12 hours and 5 days for a person to show symptoms after consuming contaminated food or water. Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated.
Most people infected with Vibrio cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for 1-10 days after infection. This means the bacteria are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.
Cholera is often predictable and preventable. It can ultimately be eliminated where access to clean water and sanitation facilities, as well as good hygiene practices, are ensured and sustained for the whole population.