Cholera isn't a major concern in the United States or other developed countries anymore thanks to good water treatment systems, but if you plan to travel to less developed countries, you could encounter cholera. Fortunately, there is a vaccine available for this disease, so there's no reason to get sick on your trip. Here are four things you need to know about the vaccine:
What is cholera?
Cholera is a disease that spreads through water or food that is contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. Most people who are exposed to the bacteria don't get sick, but about 10% get sick. The main symptoms are severe diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This diarrhea can cause you to lose up to one quart of fluids every hour, so you can quickly find yourself dehydrated. Dehydrating can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, and if the fluids aren't replaced quickly, you could go into shock and die.
Where is cholera a concern?
Cholera is still a concern in countries that don't have well-developed water and sewage treatment facilities. This allows bacteria from sewage to contaminate the water supply, and if you drink this water or eat foods that came into contact with contaminated water, you could get sick. If you plan to travel to less-developed parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, make sure to get a cholera vaccine before you go. Cholera can also be a concern in parts of the Carribean, such as Haiti.
How is the cholera vaccine given?
If you usually avoid getting immunizations because you're scared of needles, you'll be happy to hear that the cholera vaccine is given in pill form. Adults need to take two doses of the pills between one and six weeks apart, and after that, they're protected for two years. Children under six need three doses of the pills, and their doses only protect them for six months.
How effective is the vaccine?
The cholera vaccine doesn't protect you against all strains of the bacteria responsible for cholera, so it's perfectly effective. It is about 86% effective, which is significantly better than nothing, but you still need to take precautions. Drink bottled water instead of tap water, avoid eating fresh fruits or vegetables, and steer clear of food carts and restaurants with questionable hygiene practices.
If you plan to travel to an area where cholera is still a major concern, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated before you go. To learn more, contact a company like The Pediatric Center with any questions you have.