05 February 2013

What are the symptoms of cholera?

Cholera symptoms include diarrhoea, dehydration, nausea and vomiting.

 The onset of cholera is usually sudden, with incubation periods ranging from one to five days.

Most people infected with cholera do not become ill. When illness does occur, about 80-90% have mild to moderate gastroenteritis. Less than 10% develop severe symptoms.

Cholera symptoms include:

•    Diarrhoea (Look out for the characteristic "rice water" stools or diarrhoea that has a “fishy” odour.)
•    Dehydration. Signs of dehydration include a rapid heart rate, dry skin, dry mucous membranes, extreme thirst, low blood pressure, lethargy, unusual sleepiness, infrequent urination, or sunken fontanelles in infants.
•    Nausea
•    Vomiting
•    Muscle cramps


Testing for cholera is done by taking a stool culture or rectal swab.

(Previously reviewed by Professor Willem Sturm, Head of the Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases department at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in Durban)

(Reviewed by Dr Miscka Moodley, Microbiologist, UCT, March 2011)


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