The Signs & Symptoms of Cholera
Fortunately, most people who are exposed to the bacteria Vibrio cholerae won’t develop cholera or even know they had been infected. However, there will still be cholera bacteria present in their stool for up to two weeks after exposure, and this could lead to further contamination and infections. If you develop cholera, than physical symptoms can include mild to moderate diarrhea. Although, only about one in ten infected persons will ever experience the signs and symptoms of cholera, which usually manifest within a few days of exposure.
(If you are worried about contracting this infection, then you could be a good candidate for our upcoming cholera vaccine clinical trial in DeLand, FL.)
The symptoms of cholera can include:
- Diarrhea: This infection can cause a sudden onset of diarrhea, which can lead to potentially lethal dehydration. Cholera-induced diarrhea usually has a pale, milky appearance that resembles rice-water stool.
- Nausea and Vomiting: These symptoms can occur in the initial and final stages of cholera, sometimes lasting for hours on end.
- Dehydration: Following the onset of these symptoms, dehydration becomes a real risk depending on the amount of body fluids lost. Severe dehydration can occur after losing just 10 percent of total bodily fluids.
- Common indications of dehydration can include lethargy, sunken eyes, irritability, extreme thirst, dry mouth, dry/shriveled skin, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and little or no urine output. Dehydration can also result in a rapid loss of electrolytes that maintain fluid balance in the body (electrolyte imbalance).
The signs and symptoms of electrolyte imbalance can include:
- Muscle Cramps: Muscles will cramp up after the body loses too much sodium, chloride, potassium, and other salts.
- Shock: This is a very serious complication of dehydration. It is the result of low blood volume which causes blood pressure and oxygen levels to drop within the body. When severe hypovolemic shock is untreated, it can become fatal in a matter of minutes.
Cholera Symptoms in Children
For the most part, children who develop cholera will present with the same symptoms as adults. In some cases, children may also experience:
- High Fever
- Extreme Drowsiness
- Cholera-Induced Coma
When to Seek Medical Attention
In more industrialized nations, improved water filtration systems have all but eliminated the risk of cholera. However, places in Latin America, Asia, India, Africa, and the Middle East still are at risk for cholera outbreaks. It is important that you are aware of the risks when before visiting these areas of the world.
If you are experiencing severe diarrhea, and think that you may have come in contact with cholera, then please do not hesitate to seek medical attention. Severe dehydration is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate treatment regardless of the source.