Cholera is an infection of the intestines that causes severe diarrhea. It is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. Cholera can spread by eating or drinking food or water that was in contact with the fecal waste of an infected person.

Cholera is rare in the U.S. Travelers to foreign countries where outbreaks are occurring may be at risk for infection. You may also be at risk for cholera if you consume raw or undercooked seafood from coastal waters subject to sewage.


The symptoms of cholera may appear between six hours and three days after exposure.

You may experience mild to severe watery diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. In rare cases, there may be watery diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps.

Without treatment, cholera can be fatal.


If you are traveling to areas where cholera is common, follow these safety measures:

  • Drink bottled water, or boil water for drinking. Avoid tap water unless it has been boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine.
  • Only eat food that has been fully cooked, especially fish and shellfish.
  • Only eat cooked fruits and vegetables, or produce that you have peeled yourself.
  • Avoid eating salad.

You should also avoid eating foods or beverages from street vendors or restaurants that do not look clean.


Due to the rapid dehydration from severe diarrhea, it is important for people with cholera to replace fluids, either by drinking or intravenous. With prompt rehydration, death occurs in are fewer than 1% of cases.

A cholera vaccine is not available in the U.S.

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