What is Cholera?

  • Cholera is a diarrhoeal illness caused by a bacterial infection in the intestine.
  • Cholera causes severe watery diarrhoea and may cause vomiting.
  • Cholera can cause death from dehydration (the loss of water and salts from the body) within hours if not treated.

How is Cholera Spread?

  • Cholera bacteria are present in the faeces of infected people.
  • Cholera is not likely to spread directly from one person to another. However, household contacts of cholera cases and persons living in proximity of a confirmed cholera case are at higher risk of disease.

How to Protect Yourself from Cholera

a) Personal hygiene and sanitation

  • Wash your hands with soap, ashes or lime and safe water:
    • before cooking
    • before eating and before feeding your children
    • after using the latrine (or cleaning your children after they have used the latrine)
    • after taking care of and/or touching a sick person
  • Wash all parts of your hands – front, back, between the fingers and under the nails.
  • Use the latrine to defecate. If latrines are not available, defecate away from a body of water and then bury your faeces. Children’s faeces should be disposed of in the same way.
  • Keep the latrine clean.

b) Food: Cook it, peel it or leave it

  • Cook raw food thoroughly.
  • Eat cooked food immediately, while it is still warm.
  • Cover cooked food and store it carefully in a cool place.
  • Reheat cooked food thoroughly before eating.
  • Avoid contact between raw food and cooked food.
  • Wash hands before preparing, cooking or eating food.
  • Wash vegetables thoroughly with soap and safe water before eating.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables you have peeled yourself.
  • Wash your cutting board especially well with soap and safe water.
  • Wash your utensils and dishes with soap and safe water.

c) Safe Drinking Water

  • Collect water from a known safe source (where quality is being monitored on a frequent basis).
  • Even if it looks clear, water can contain the bacteria causing cholera.
  • Boil water for at least 1 minute or add drops or tablets of chlorine to it before drinking or using it to wash vegetables or food preparation items.
  • Keep drinking water in a clean, covered pot or bucket or other container with a small opening and a cover. It should be used within 24 hours of collection.
  • Pour the water from the container; do not dip a cup into the container.
  • If dipping into the water container cannot be avoided, use a cup or other utensil with a handle to scoop the water.

d) Water Sources

  • Regularly monitor water quality as per protocol.
  • Conduct a water safety assessment with the community to eliminate potential or suspected sources of contamination.
  • Do not defecate in or near a source of drinking water (stream, river or water hole).
  • Do not wash yourself, your clothes or your pots and utensils in the source of drinking water.
  • Cover open wells and seal properly when not in use to avoid contamination.
  • Hang the buckets used to collect water when not in use; they must not be left on a dirty surface.
  • Keep areas surrounding wells and hand pumps as clean as possible
  • Get rid of refuse and stagnant water around a water source.

What to Do if You or Your Family is Ill With Diarrhoea

  • The biggest danger of cholera is loss of fluid from the body.
  • Do not panic, but act quickly.
  • The sick person should drink a solution of oral rehydration salts (ORS) made with safe (boiled or chlorinated) water.
  • Go immediately to see the community health worker or to the health centre. The sick person should continue to drink ORS while seeking care.
  • Encourage continuation of breastfeeding while a child or mother has cholera.

Taking Care of Sick People

  • Wash your hands with soap and safe water after taking care of sick people, touching them or their clothes or bedding, or handling or cleaning up their stools or vomit.
  • Do not wash a sick person’s bedding or clothing in a water source.
  • Avoid direct contact with stools and vomit from a person who is sick with cholera. The fluids should be dumped in the latrine and the carrying vessel carefully cleaned/disinfected.
  • Disinfect the sick person’s clothing and bedding with a solution of chlorine (0.2%). If chlorine is not available, the sick person’s bedding and clothing can be disinfected by stirring for 5 minutes in boiling water and drying in direct sunlight, or by washing with soap and drying thoroughly in direct sunlight.