What is Cholera?

Cholera is a bacterial infection which causes severe diarrhoea leading to dehydration and can be fatal if untreated. It is caused by consuming contaminated food or drink. A single dose of the cholera vaccine has been shown to have 85% effectiveness for up to 6 months, decreasing to 50% during the first year. It is therefore recommended that you book in for a cholera vaccination before you travel to a high-risk area, especially if there will be reduced access to healthcare e.g. if you are a disaster or relief worker.

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After exposure to the bacteria, the incubation period may last from 12 hours up to 5 days. What to expect:

✔ Around 75% of people who have been infected with cholera will experience mild symptoms.
✔ Those people who have underlying health issues are more prone to develop more severe illnesses.
✔ In those instances where the disease gets severe, people might experience extreme dehydration due to the rapid onset of diarrhoea and vomiting. People should seek immediate help in order to be treated with intravenous fluid replacements otherwise they could die.

Where are the areas of high risk?

This disease is usually found in areas where the sanitation system is poor. Cholera epidemics can also occur in the aftermath of war and natural diseases. Some of the countries where cholera outbreaks have been found are Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq. However, changes are always taking place so before you travel, make sure you consult the news. 

How to Prevent Cholera?

Other ways to prevent cholera if you are travelling to a high-risk area;
✔ Practise good hygiene; always wash your hands with soap, especially before preparing food or drink.
✔ Do not drink water from the tap.
✔ Ensure to brush your teeth with boiled or bottled water.
✔ Do not eat uncooked vegetables unless you have washed and prepared them yourself.
✔ Do not have ice in your drink or eat seafood/ shellfish.

The Vaccine

The Vaccine is administered orally, under the form of a drink. The cholera Vaccine involves two doses for adults and they will need to be taken 7 days apart. Adults will be protected for two years after getting the vaccine, whereas children will require further boosters and they might need up to 3 boosters in order to be protected. 

Before you go to your vaccine appointment, make sure you avoid eating and drinking for at least one hour before and after the appointment. 

When should I get vaccinated?

It is recommended to finish the course of medication one week before you travel. The course contains two doses given one week apart. This means that the first dose you will be administered should be taken at least two weeks.

How long does the Vaccine last?

The cholera vaccine is effective for a period of two years. However, for children, it may be recommended to get more boosters.  

Who should not have the vaccine?
Children under two years old should not have the vaccine. 

What are the side effects?

Although they are very rare, some of the side effects that people may experience include headaches, fever and digestive problems. It’s usually one in 100 patients that will experience any of these symptoms and any other severe reactions remain extremely rare. 

For comprehensive guidance about preventing cholera or receiving a vaccination, please book in for a full consultation at our clinics in Birmingham and Leicester.

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