Cholera is an intestinal infection caused by strains of the bacteria Vibrio cholerae serogroup O1 or O139, which produce cholera toxin. The deadly effects of the disease are the result of the toxin the bacteria produces in the small intestine. The toxin causes the body to excrete large amounts of water, leading to diarrhoea and dehydration. This can also result in vomiting and shock. Cholera can be fatal within hours to hitherto healthy people

Modern sewage and water treatment have virtually eliminated cholera in industrialised countries. However, cholera still exists in Africa, Southeast Asia and Haiti. The risk of a cholera epidemic is highest when poverty, war or natural disasters force people to live in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation.




  • wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating
  • only drink tap water that’s been boiled or bottled water
  • brush your teeth using bottled or boiled water


  • do not eat uncooked fruit and vegetables (including salads) that you haven’t washed with bottled or boiled water and prepared yourself
  • do not eat shellfish and seafood
  • do not eat ice cream or have ice in your drinks


Cholera is easily treated. There’s a vaccine for cholera, but most people don’t need it.

The vaccine is recommended if;

  • you’re travelling to an area where cholera is common and you’ll be visiting remote places without access to medical care
  • you’re an aid or disaster relief worker going to an area where a cholera outbreak is likely

The vaccine is given as a drink. For adults, 2 doses (given 1 to 6 weeks apart) can provide protection for up to 2 years. Both doses need to be taken at least one week before travel.