33.1.1  Infectious agents and occurrence of cholera

What comes to your mind when hear the word cholera? It is an acute diarrhoeal disease that affects the intestines and can kill vulnerable patients within a few hours if they are not treated quickly. The WHO estimates that there are 3 to 5 million cases of cholera every year around the world, and between 100,000 to 120,000 deaths. It can affect people in all age-groups. Cholera is caused by the bacteria named Vibrio cholerae (Figure 33.1), which occur naturally in the environment in shallow water around coasts, particularly where rivers flow into the sea. However, people infected by cholera bacteria can rapidly spread the organisms anywhere in a country, particularly where faeces leak into waste water collections.

Vibrio cholerae bacteria magnified thousands of times
Figure 33.1  Vibrio cholerae bacteria magnified thousands of times. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

33.1.2  Cholera epidemics