What Causes Cholera?

Cholera is an infection of small intestine. This is caused by Vibrio cholarae bacteria. Vomiting and watery diarrhea are the main symptoms. This health condition transmits from one person to another either through consuming contaminated food or water. If a person is severely suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, it can result in electrolyte imbalance and rapid dehydration. Oral dehydration solution is the primary treatment and intravenous fluids are given in severe cases. For those suffering with this severely, antibiotics are given. Read through the below lines to know what causes cholera.

Causes of Cholera:Vibrio cholerae bacteria cause cholera. However, this is due to a toxin, known as CTX. This toxin is produced by the bacteria in small intestine. It binds to the walls of intestine and interferes with the normal flow of chloride and sodium. This results in rapid loss of water, resulting in diarrhea and loss of electrolytes.

Cholera is mainly caused by contaminated water, even though raw vegetables and fruits, uncooked shellfish and other foods are the habitat of Vibrio Cholerae.

The bacteria of cholera have two distinctive life cycles – one in humans and other in environment.

Cholera bacteria in people:If a person is ingested with cholera bacteria, he may not become sick, but they can pass the V. cholera in their stool. When the feces contaminate water or food supplies, they serve as the breeding grounds for bacteria.

Nearly a million bacteria is required to cause illness as this health condition is not transmitted through contact.

Standing water and some foods such as raw vegetables and fruits, sea food and grains are the common sources of cholera.

Seafood: Consuming undercooked or raw seafood, particularly shellfish which originates from some locations can cause cholera. Recent studies revealed that the seafood from Gulf of Mexico is the main cause of cholera in USA.

Well or Surface water: The V. cholerae bacteria lie in still water for longer periods. Contaminated public wells are other sources of frequent cholera breakouts. People living in inadequate sanitation facility are at higher risk.

Raw vegetables and fruits: Raw and unpeeled vegetables and fruits are the common causes of cholera in localities where cholera is easily transmittable. Irrigation water containing sewage or uncomposted manure fertilizers can contaminate the fields and result in cholera.

Grains: Grains like millet and rice which are contaminated after cooking and are remained at normal temperature for many hours can become a medium for the breeding of bacteria.

Cholera bacteria in environment:Generally, cholera bacteria develop in coastal waters. Here they attach themselves to very small crustaceans known as copepods. These serve as hosts for bacteria and spread worldwide as crustaceans follow the food source. Some types of plankton and algae grow rapidly when the water temperature increase. Algae grow extensively by urea available in sewage.

Symptoms of Cholera:
Following are the signs and symptoms of cholera:

  • Vomiting and nausea: These can occur in early stage as well as in the later stage of cholera. At times, vomiting can persist for hours.
  • Dehydration: This develops within hours as the symptoms of cholera develop. Dehydration can range from mild to severe depending on the loss of body fluids. If the body weight is lost by 10%, it is considered as severe dehydration.
  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea caused by cholera can result in rapid fluid loss every hour. This always has a pale and milky appearance like the water in which rice has been rinsed i.e., rice-water stool. This can result in loss of electrolytes. This is known as electrolyte imbalance.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: This can result in severe symptoms like:
    • Shock: Shock is the most serious complication. This occurs when there is a drop in blood pressure and amount of oxygen in the body. If the person is left untreated, severe hypovolemic shock can lead to death in minutes.
    • Muscle cramps: Due to rapid loss of salts like potassium, sodium and chloride, one may suffer from muscle cramps.
  • Other symptoms of cholera include irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, no or little urine output, dry and shriveled skin, extreme thirst, dry mouth, sunken eyes, lethargy and irritability.

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