Cholera is a life threatening infection causing profuse watery diarrhoea that can lead to swift death through dehydration in less than 24 hours. It is most commonly caused by a breakdown in water sanitation and hygiene, and outbreaks are usually associated with natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding. The infection is caused by a bacterium Vibrio Cholera and though treatment by antibiotics ought to help, it is rapid and efficient fluid replacement that saves lives, something that is not always available in the developing world. Aid workers are the travellers most in need of protection.
Can I be vaccinated against cholera
There is now a safe and effective vaccine, taken as a drink in two doses a week apart, which provides up to 2 years of protection. However Cholera fortunately remains exceedingly rare in travellers.
Vibrio Cholera produces a toxin that affects the gut lining. This toxin is quite similar to another toxin produced by a more common but less severe infection (E Coli), responsible in some parts of the world for up to a third of the diarrhoea experienced by travellers. For this reason the vaccine it is often used for E Coli protection rather than protection against Cholera.
E coli protection is short lived, lasting up to 3 months, but can be boosted for further travel within 2 years of the initial doses, with another single dose of vaccine.