Cholera In Africa

Cholera in Africa is a bacterial infection, which causes severe diarrhoea and can eventually lead to death through severe dehydration.

There are chronic epidemics of cholera going on more or less all the time in some areas of central and west Africa.

Sudden large outbreaks of cholera can occur pretty much anywhere in Africa and at any time when there are catastrophic natural disaster events such as unusually high rainfall and flooding. Cholera then occurs as a result of overcrowding in poor living conditions and a lack of access to clean water. This year (2015) cholera has been reported in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Your travel health clinic should be able to give you advice on the latest cholera outbreaks and whether it would affect your travel plans.

Cholera Facts

  • The cholera bacteria are spread through contaminated food and water, or from one infected person to another through the faecal-oral route.
  • Cholera infection causes dramatic fluid loss, leading to death in about 9 hours unless rehydration is instituted vigorously.
  • It is present in parts of the world where sanitation and hygiene are poor.
  • Any traveller or hunter in areas where cholera is endemic is at risk.

Cholera Symptoms

  • The cholera disease causes characteristically watery diarrhoea, described as 'rice-water' stool.
  • Symptoms of dehydration like impaired consciousness, may occur if rehydration is not prompt.
  • Vomiting, muscular and abdominal cramps may occur.

Cholera Summary For African Travellers and Hunters

  • The best way to prevent any diseases causing diarrhoea is to be very careful with food and water while in an endemic area.
  • Always check the seal of purchased bottled water is intact before opening it and drinking it.
  • Food products that could potentially put a traveller at risk and that should be avoided include raw fish and seafood products, and any food that has been washed in potentially unclean water.
  • Avoid ice cream and ice in drinks.
  • Proper cooking of food and adequate boiling of water will protect the traveller from contamination through food and water. Strict personal hygiene is also essential.
  • Cholera vaccination is not usually advised because of the brief and incomplete immunity that the vaccines confer.

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