Cholera Symptoms and Signs

Cholera, a potentially fatal disease in some cases affects the intestinal tract. Some forms of cholera are symptom-less, or exhibit only moderate signs of the illness. The onset of cholera symptoms happens within a 24- to 48-hour period. Typical signs of having contracted cholera include diarrhea, vomiting, and muscle cramps. In moderate cases, normally healthy people experience spontaneous and extreme amounts of watery diarrhea between one and five days of consuming food containing the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.


In extreme cases of cholera, which afflicts one out of twenty people, diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting and muscle cramps. These symptoms come on quickly, and excessive loss of body fluids caused by diarrhea will bring on dehydration. Dehydration may lead to shock. If this extreme form of cholera is left untreated, a person can die within a few short hours.

When body fluids decrease rapidly, a plethora of other symptoms follow:

• thirst
• muscle weakness
• rapid heartbeat
• decreased output of urine
• induced coma
• death

Diarrhea fluid output can be as much as 18 liters over a 24-hour period. Once extreme dehydration sets in, kidney failure, distressed electrolyte ratios, and coma can result. This process, in untreated cases, can take place in as little as 18- to 72-hours.

Cholera epidemics in underdeveloped countries, such as Haiti, experience death rates up to 60%, of those who have contracted severe cases of the infection. The high percentage rate is linked to malnutrition, making those who suffer from it, more likely to contract a severe form of the infection.

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