Cholera bacteria, TEM. © Science Photo Library

Cholera is a type of severe diarrhoea caused by a Vibrio cholera bacteria.It is often found in contaminated water, particularly in coastal areas where human waste may be present. 

The infection spreads when people consume contaminated food or water, especially undercooked seafood. 

Symptoms appear after few hours to 5 days and include:

  • vomiting
  • very watery diarrhoea

In severe cases rapid loss of body fluids can quickly lead to dehydration and shock. However, many people infected with the bacteria do not show any symptoms..

The mortality rate is less than 1% and treatment is based on fluid replacement and antibiotics.

Cholera  is not a common problem in Europe due to high standards of hygiene, and  reported cases have been linked to travel outside Europe. The risk of  spreading from imported cases is low.