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Cholera Treatment and Prevention

Although there is a vaccine against cholera, the CDC and World Health Organization don't normally recommend it because it may not protect up to half of the people who receive it and it lasts only a few months. However, you can protect yourself and your family by using only water that has been boiled, water that has been chemically disinfected, or bottled water. Be sure to use the bottled, boiled, or chemically disinfected water for the following purposes:

  • Drinking
  • Preparing food or drinks
  • Making ice
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Washing your face and hands
  • Washing dishes and utensils that you use to eat or prepare food
  • Washing fruits and vegetables

To disinfect your own water, boil it for one minute or filter it and add two drops of bleach or one-half of an iodine tablet per liter of water.

You should also avoid raw foods, including the following:

  • Unpeeled fruits and vegetables
  • Unpasteurized milk and milk products
  • Raw or undercooked meat or shellfish
  • Fish caught in tropical reefs, which may be contaminated

If you develop severe, watery diarrhea and vomiting -- particularly after eating raw shellfish or traveling to a country where cholera is epidemic -- seek medical help immediately. Cholera is highly treatable, but because dehydration can happen quickly, it's important to get cholera treatment right away.

Hydration is the mainstay of treatment for cholera. Depending on how severe the diarrhea is, treatment will consist of oral or intravenous solutions to replace lost fluids. Antibiotics, which kill the bacteria, are not part of emergency treatment.  They reduce the duration of diarrhea by half and also reduce the excretion of the bacteria, thus helping to prevent the spread of the disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD, PhD on October 14, 2012
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