Cholera Still Killing People in the 21st Century

In the developed world the deadly disease cholera is all but extinct, but it’s still killing thousands of people in less developed areas. Cholera is an acute infectious disease of the intestine that at its worst can cause watery diarrhea and vomiting, and can result in death within hours of onset. Fortunately, only one in 20 people who contract cholera will have symptoms this severe, according to the CDC.

Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, and is usually contracted by consuming contaminated drinking water (or food), which unfortunately is widespread in the developing world where clean drinking water is in short supply.

More than 4,000 people have died of cholera in Zimbabwe since August 2008, but newly drilled wells are helping to reduce the death toll there. Health officials are also trying to stop cholera outbreaks in war-torn Somalia, where civilians fleeing the turmoil has led to a humanitarian emergency, and in Kenya, where cholera has killed 47 people, believed to be caused by a drought has led people to drink contaminated water.

Cholera can be treated effectively with oral hydration therapy, which gives the sufferer fluids and electrolytes to replace that lots through diarrhea. In severe cases, intravenous fluid replacement may be needed.

Learn about about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of cholera in these articles from the MedLine Plus Encyclopedia, the Mayo Clinic, and MedicineNet.

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