As one of the most prevalent health conditions among travellers, it’s important to understand as much as you can about cholera. After all, falling foul of this disease can ruin a good holiday very quickly.
Travelling is an exciting, educating and often life-changing experience. It offers the chance to see things you never thought you’d see, and do things you never thought you’d do. As the saying goes: “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
But part of any successful adventure is making sure you stay safe and healthy enough to enjoy it. Any expedition into unfamiliar territory comes with potential health risks, and the further afield you travel, the greater these potential risks can be. And one of these risks is cholera.
Cholera is a common and often dangerous condition which impacts travellers. Understanding more about the condition is key to ensuring your safety while globetrotting. With that in mind, we’ve created this handy guide to help you understand more about the risks of cholera for travellers.
What is Cholera?
Cholera is a disease caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water. Being infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium causes frequent watery diarrhoea. If this is left untreated, it can cause rapid dehydration and, in the most serious cases, it can even be fatal.
Throughout history cholera has been one of the most devastating infections across the world, especially for periods and places in which clean water is hard to come by. It has been the cause of millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths.
And today, cholera remains a global threat.
Cholera, in numbers
Around the world, there are an estimated 1.3 million cases of cholera per year, leading to between 21,000 and 143,000 deaths.
In fact, in 2017 there were a total of 1,227,391 cases of cholera across 34 countries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this caused 5,654 deaths. Of the 34 countries where cholera was reported, 14 were in Africa, resulting in 179,835 cases and 3,220 deaths.
13,818 of these cholera cases and 163 deaths occurred in the Americas, with the vast majority (13,681) taking place in Haiti.
The Americas, Africa and areas in South Asia are among the highest risk areas for cholera cases. In 2017, nine countries had large outbreaks of cholera. In Yemen, there were over 1 million cases, while significant numbers of cholera cases were also reported in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Zambia and Somalia.
In the UK, cholera is not something that most people will be familiar with or worry about on a daily basis. Typically, the only way UK citizens acquire cholera is through travelling. In 2018, there were 17 confirmed cases of cholera in UK travellers. These individuals travelled to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tunisia and Thailand.
However, it’s important to note that the number of reported cholera instances is thought to be significantly lower than the actual number of people suffering. This is because reporting cholera cases is not mandatory.
When cholera does occur, it is characterised by the onset of watery diarrhoea. This is often accompanied by vomiting. Symptoms usually occur 2-5 days after initial infection, but can present themselves in as little as a few hours.
When left untreated, over 50% of severe cholera cases lead to fatalities. Dehydration is the major risk associated with cholera, so the condition is often treated with oral rehydration solutions. However, avoiding the condition altogether is preferable. This involves taking great care with the food and drink you consume while travelling, drinking only sealed bottled water and avoiding foods like salads, uncooked fruit and vegetables, food which has been left out, raw or undercooked meat and food from street vendors.
Getting vaccinated offers the best protection against cholera. The cholera vaccination is available here at Express Travel Clinic.
Get in touch with Express Travel Clinic today to make sure you are able to travel safely and without worry. Click here to book an appointment or call