Cholera signs and symptoms

Cholera is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting. The symptoms of cholera are:

  • Large amounts of diarrhoea (which sometimes looks like rice water)
  • Vomiting (which sometimes looks like rice water)
  • Leg cramps
  • Feeling weak

Severe diarrhoea can cause dehydration, which can lead to weakness and even death if not treated rapidly. Symptoms and signs of dehydration are thirst, weakness or fatigue, sunken eyes and decreased skin elasticity.

Infants, young children, older people, and people who are already sick are most at risk of getting severely ill if they get cholera.

The most important thing to reduce cholera deaths is for anyone with symptoms to drink oral rehydration solution (salt sugar solution with safe water) as soon as they become ill, and to get to a health centre fast.

Not everyone who is infected with the bacteria gets ill. Approximately one-in-five people who are infected with the bacteria get symptoms. Symptoms usually start between 12 hours and five days after being exposed.

Of people with symptoms, usually 2 or 3 out of every 10 develop severe disease.

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