Cholera has been identified as one of the major causes of death in the world. It is a bacterial disease that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting; attributes which lead to dehydration and electrolyte loss and thus potential death (MedlinePlus). According to reports by WHO, “an estimated 3-5 million cases of cholera are reported annually.” Out of this number, 100,000-120,000 die of the disease. This paper is seeks to identify the cause, signs and symptoms, and treatment, prevention and the prognosis of those infected with cholera.
Causes of cholera and how it infects humans
Cholera is a bacterial disease that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae (Forrest 71). Cholera infects humans upon their consumption of water and food that has been contaminated with the pathogen. Other risk factors to the disease include living in areas with cholera, poor sanitation, and overcrowded places. Recent researches have shown that the bacteria is present in shellfish, thus eating raw shellfish can risk infecting the disease (WHO). It is established that the bacterium Vibrio cholerae cannot survive the high levels of acidity in the stomach. The few bacteria, which survive this acidity, get their way into the small intestines walls. To reach the intestinal walls, the bacteria produce protein flagellin which serves to produce flagella for propelling them through the mucus in the intestines (Hayhurst 36).
Upon reaching the intestinal walls, production of flagellin is stopped allowing the bacteria to engage in energy and nutrition conservation. This process is by changing of its self-manufactured proteins triggered by the changed chemical surrounding, a factor which allows them to multiple in numbers (Forrest 81). The bacterium then produces toxins in the victim’s intestines causing them to release blood water into the intestine, then out of the body as watery diarrhea. The diarrhea contains new bacteria which under poor sanitation infect other members of the community.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of cholera vary from victim to victim depending on the severity of the condition. Severe cases of cholera are characterized by severe diarrhea and rapid dehydration as well as abdominal pain (WHO). Another common symptom is vomiting and low urination rate. Due to the high rates of fluid loss from the body, the victims of cholera seem unusually sleepy and tired. Unlike other type of diseases, the symptoms of cholera show up sudden. According to the WHO, “The disease has a short incubation of some two hours to 5 days after the person has been infected with the bacteria.”
Victims of cholera experience excessive and recurrent levels of thirst. This is a reaction by the body to replace the huge amounts of blood water being lost through diarrhea and vomiting. In addition, the disease leads to dry skin and sunken eyes as well as an increase in heart rate (Todar 3). For infants, cholera causes sinking of the kid’s soft spot. Other common symptoms of cholera are dry mouth and nausea. These symptoms are more severe in persons with low immunity such as victims of malnutrition and HIV.
Treatment and prevention and prognosis of infected people
The treatment of cholera involves the administration of oral re-hydration salts to the victim. However, this form of treatment is only effective and reliable for mild and moderate cases of the disease. Victims of severe cases of cholera require the administration of intravenous fluids to compensate for the high levels of dehydration (MedlinePlus). In addition, some antibiotics are used to reduce the duration of the diarrhea and enhance the rate of excretion of the bacteria from the victim’s body. Available literature has indicated that if reported early and given prompt medical attention, the disease one of the most easily treated disease. This is because an estimated 80% of are cholera cases are not severe.
Cholera can be easily prevented by eliminating associated risk factors. This includes the promotion of sanitation in the community (Wachsmuth 24). Such can be achieved by ensuring provision of clean drinking water and uncontaminated eating food to the people. Another important prevention measure is discouraging people from living or traveling to places infested with the disease. The use of vaccines can also serve in the prevention of cholera. Two types of oral cholera vaccines are available in the market; both of which are effective for a period of two years for people living in cholera endemic areas (WHO). Giving health education on hygienic living and safe handling of food remains the most important tool in preventing the spreading of cholera.
It has been established that cholera is a major cause of death in the world despite the fact that it can be easily treated with high success rates by administering oral re-hydration salts to the victims. However, treatment of severe cases of cholera dictates a complex medical procedure to save life given the rapid dehydration it causes to the body (Todar). Since it is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae which is found in places with poor sanitation, cholera can be prevented by encouraging hygienic living among members of the community. Therefore, the process of preventing cholera dictates for providing community health education to the locals on healthy living practices while supplying them with cleaning water and safe foods.
Todar, Kenneth. “Vibrio Cholerae and Asiatic cholera.” Vibrio Cholerae and Asiatic cholera. 2009. 8 Aug. 2010. <http://www.textbookofbacteriology.net/cholera.html>
Wachsmuth, Kaye, Blake, Paul, and Olsvik, Orjan. Vibrio Cholerae and Cholera: Molecular to Global Perspective. Washington, DC: American Society for Microbiology Press, 1994.
Hayhurst, Chris. Cholera. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2001.
Forrest, Bruce, and Drasar, B.S. Cholera and the Ecology of Vibrio Cholera. London: Chapman & Hall, 1996.
World Health Organization. “Cholera.” Cholera. Jun 2010. 8 Aug. 2010. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs107/en/>
MedlinePlus. “Cholera.” Cholera. 22 Jly. 2010. 8 Aug. 2010. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000303.htm>