Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
In this Article
- Cholera facts
- What is cholera?
- What are cholera symptoms and signs?
- What causes cholera, and how is cholera transmitted?
- What is the history of cholera?
- Who is at risk for cholera, and where do cholera outbreaks occur?
- How is cholera diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for cholera?
- What is the prognosis of cholera?
- Can cholera be prevented? Are cholera vaccines available?
- Where can people find more information about cholera?
What is the prognosis of cholera?
The prognosis (outcome) of cholera can range from excellent to poor, depending on the severity of the dehydration and how quickly the patient is given and responds to treatments. Death (mortality) rates in untreated cholera can be as high as 50%-60% during large outbreaks but can be reduced to about 1% if treatment protocols (see above treatment section) are rapidly put into action. In general, the less severe the symptoms and the less time people have dehydration symptoms, the better the prognosis; in many people, if dehydration is quickly reversed, the prognosis is often excellent.
Can cholera be prevented? Are cholera vaccines available?
Yes, cholera can be prevented by several methods. Developed countries have an almost zero incidence of cholera because they have widespread water-treatment plants, food-preparation facilities that usually practice sanitary protocols, and most people have access to toilets and hand-washing facilities. Although these countries may have occasional lapses or gaps in these methods, they have prevented many disease outbreaks, including cholera.
Individuals can prevent or reduce the chance they may get cholera by thorough hand washing, avoiding areas and people with cholera, drinking treated water or similar safe fluids and eating cleaned and well-cooked food. In addition, there are vaccines available that can help prevent cholera, although they are not available in the U.S., and their effectiveness ranges from 50%-90%, depending on the studies reported. The vaccines are oral preparations, because injected vaccines have not proved to be very effective. Two vaccines (Shanchol and mORC-VAX) are composed of killed V. cholerae bacteria and without the enterotoxin B subunit. Unfortunately, both offer protection for only about two years. Both vaccines are given in two doses, about one to six weeks apart. Unfortunately, the vaccines have limited availability; their recommended use is for people going to areas of known outbreaks with the likely possibility the person may be exposed to cholera. Some researchers suggest this limited oral vaccine availability should be changed and cite data that oral vaccine may help limit outbreaks, even after they have begun.
Research is ongoing; a research study in Haiti will try to determine if a two-dose vaccine in people will suffice to protect a difficult to treat (rural poor) population from cholera and thus save many lives. There are over 30 universities researching this disease (cholera's epidemiology, pathology, immunology, vaccine production, and other problems) currently worldwide.
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