Nov
10
2010

Cholera- A Pretty Name for an Ugly Disease

in

This scanning electron micrograph depicts a number of Vibrio cholerae bacteria; Magnified 22371x.: Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement.
This scanning electron micrograph depicts a number of Vibrio cholerae bacteria; Magnified 22371x.: Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. Severe cases also require intravenous fluid replacement.Courtesy CDC/ Janice Haney Carr
Picture yourself lying in a bed with a hole cut out under you to collect buckets full of unstoppable diarrhea. Now imagine your child lying there. Finally, pretend you are not one of the lucky ones lying on a cholera cot in a hospital, but are lined up outside a hospital in the street.
Cholera is an ugly disease.

The bacteria makes a toxin that shreds the intestinal lining, causing white flecks that look like rice to be passed in huge volumes of watery diarrhea. In hospitals, these “rice water stools” are collected and measured in buckets so body fluids can be replaced. Adults can lose up to 22 liters a day while battling this devastating infection. Without fluid and electrolyte replacement, most victims die from shock.

Lucky patients that recover often still carry the bacteria and can infect others. They can even re-infect themselves.

Cholera bacteria can survive outside the human body in water. They do especially well in dirty water. Unsanitary conditions are breeding grounds for Vibrio cholera.
I read this morning in the New York Times that cholera has spread from the Hatian countryside to the crowded, unsanitary camps of the earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince. The camps don’t have clean toilets and are often flooded when it rains. Over a million people live in filth and poverty. According to the article, health officials predict that over 270,000 people could get sick with Cholera over the next few years.
People like you, and me, and our kids.

What can you do to help? Support aid organizations that are mobilizing to get clean water, water purification supplies, and medical supplies to Haiti. Once the supplies arrive though, it’s up to the Hatian government to make sure workers are able to get them to the people most in need. Let’s hope they do.

(This blog post was originally posted on the Kitchen Pantry Scientist blog.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

We wrote some about cholera during the big outbreak in Zimbabwe in December, 2008. There are links in that thread if you want to know more about the disease. (And check out Steven Johnson's "The Ghost Map: the story of London's most terrifying epidemic--and how it changed science, cities, and the modern world." It's a fascinating read.)

posted on Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:44pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Health workers in Haiti had hoped (in vain) that cholera wouldn't make the jump to Port au Prince from the outlying areas...

posted on Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

influenza stage one is a succesful way to stop ovver population. a disease is natural and so is the wipeing out of part of human population. if this is not done than it results in over population. why do we always try to hinder or fully stop the natural proggression of life?

posted on Sun, 01/09/2011 - 2:38pm
doraanne wright's picture
doraanne wright says:

how can i prevent spreading this disease

posted on Sat, 02/19/2011 - 5:30pm
ABBY's picture
ABBY says:

HOW CAN I KEEP FROM GETTING THIS DISEASE I REALLY KINDA DONT WANT TO GET IT
THANK YOU

posted on Fri, 04/01/2011 - 11:40am
Madelyn's picture
Madelyn says:

Infections are very bad and they can kill people.

posted on Tue, 03/26/2013 - 1:19pm

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