Cholera – Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

This is an acute communicable disease, caused by Vibrio Cholera. The incubation period is from a few hours to 2 days. The
organisms are swallowed with contaminated food and water. In the small intestine they quickly multiply and produce a toxin which causes the intestinal wall to secrete a great deal of water and salts.

Signs and symptoms of Cholera

1. Severe diarrhea and vomiting (the stools looks like rice water)
2. Severe dehydration
3. The pulse is very weak and rapid and blood pressure is low (hypotension).
4. The infected person complains of severe thirst
5. Painful cramps in legs and abdomen.
6. Sunken eyes
7. Urine output is low (oliguria)
8. In severe conditions the infected patient may collapse

Diagnosis of Cholera

A patient with rice-water stools should be suspected of having cholera. A stool specimen should be collected and sent immediately to the laboratory for confirmation of diagnosis.

Treatment and nursing care

1. Isolate the infected person from others immediately
2. Rehydrate the patient with adequate intravenous fluids
3. Administer antibiotics as per doctors prescription
4. Monitor vital signs (pulse respiration, temperature and blood pressure) every hour
5. Watch for the urine output
6. The patient should be encouraged to take rice congee, buttermilk and plenty of oral fluids to replace fluid loss.
7. If a child is breast fed, feeds should be continued

Preventive and control measures

1. Surveillance- investigation of all cases of diarrhoea.
2. Immediate notification of suspected cases.
3. Isolation of the patient, with special care to disinfect stools, and vomit
4. If a person dies, the body should be wrapped in a sheet soaked in 2% Lysol and disposed off by burning.
5. Sanitation measures – a. Chlorination of all water sources, b. Advice to drink boiled water and c. Safe food practice (food hygiene) – protected from flies and proper hand washing.
6. Immunise the community with cholera vaccine during an outbreak of cholera.
7. Educate the community on ways of preventing cholera.

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