how does poor sanitation help spread cholera

(Last Updated: Feb 5, 2008)

Cholera is an epidemic caused by the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae. Ingestion of this bacterium causes acute diarrhea and transmission occurs through direct fecal-oral contamination or through the consumption of contaminated water or food. In its most severe form, cholera manifests as a sudden onset of acute watery diarrhea that can prove fatal as it causes severe dehydration and kidney failure. Mild diarrhea in most patients is accompanied by nausea and a fall in blood pressure. The patient experiences severe stomach cramps, rise in temperature and clammy skin.

Cholera is a contagious disease and the bacterium has a very short incubation period – two hours to five days – pathogens stay in the feces of infected people for 7 to 14 days and infect other individuals once they are shed back into the environment. Cholera can kill a healthy adult within a matter of few hours. Persons with a compromised immunity, malnourished children or persons affected by HIV are at a much greater risk of death if infected by Cholera. The disease is considered by the WHO to be endemic in many countries and cholera cannot be eliminated from the environment.

Poor sanitation is a major cause for the outbreak of cholera as the bacterium is transmitted primarily through contaminated water and food. The Vibrio Cholerae spreads with the help of flies and water that has been contaminated by the bacterium. The bacterium produces a powerful poison or endotoxin that proves fatal for humans.  Inadequate management of natural resources and a poor environment combine to spread the disease. Areas like peri-urban slums are at a greater risk for a cholera outbreak on account of a lack of basic infrastructure. The shortage of clean water and proper sanitation puts these areas at a higher risk than others. In addition to disruption of proper sanitation and water supply, the massive displacement of people to camps that are inadequately equipped and crowded increases the risk of cholera transmission. While it is important to maintain good general hygiene, education about health and sanitation and communication about preventive measures are equally important.

While Cholera is a serious illness that requires immediate medical attention, here are a few home remedies you can try to help prevent cholera:

  • Maintain good personal hygiene, wash your hands as frequently as possible.
  • lemon juice is very effective in the cure of cholera as it can kill the cholera bacilii in a very short period of time. Taking small amounts of lemon in your everyday diet also helps prevent cholera.
  • The root bark of guava is a rich source of tannins and immediately arrests vomiting and diarrhea. Use about 30 grams of this root bark in half a liter of water to make a revitalizing drink to help stop cholera symptoms. The water should be boiled so it diminishes by one third and this solution should be taken twice a day.

answered by G M

Cholera is an extremely serious form of gastroenteritis, caused by certain strains of a bacteria known as vibrio cholerae. As with other types of gastroenteritis, it causes inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and severe diarrhea. Gastroenteritis itself is usually quite a severe and dangerous infection, but cholera is much more dangerous, and is fatal in some cases. Severe dehydration and dangerously low blood pressure can develop within a couple of hours from the first symptoms, and unless prompt medical treatment is provided, the patient may report critical within a couple of days. Death is even known to occur within 24 hours from the first signs of diarrhea in some very rare cases.

As you can see, cholera is extremely dangerous, and therefore, proper precautions are essential to prevent its spread. This mainly revolves around proper sanitation measures. To understand why proper sanitation is so important, you need to understand how the v. cholerae bacteria functions.

When these bacteria enter the human digestive tract, most of them are destroyed by stomach acid. However, a few bacteria manage to make their way past the stomach into the small intestine, where they push through the mucus and lodge themselves on the intestinal wall. Once they have firmly lodged themselves here, the bacteria start producing toxic proteins that create a salt water environment in the intestine, which then starts drawing water through the intestinal wall. This results in extremely severe diarrhea, in the course of which, a lot of bacteria are also discharged from the body. Without proper sanitation, these bacteria can contaminate groundwater and even properly developed water supplies. Consumption of this water, food that has been washed in this water, or even food that grows in this water, such as shellfish or certain small scale crops in underdeveloped countries, allows the bacteria to enter a new host, where the cycle is repeated.

This cycle can of course occur with other bacteria too, but in the case of v. cholerae it is particularly effective, and you have also to contend with the deadliness of the disease itself. For this reason, extreme steps must be taken in any cholera outbreak – sewage must be treated before there is any chance of it contaminating water supplies, and all water used for drinking, cooking, or even washing must be sterilized. In addition, a cholera patient’s clothing and bedding must also be thoroughly disinfected by washing them in hot water and preferably by using chlorine bleach too. People treating the patient should also maintain strict hygiene, sterilizing their hands, and if necessary their clothes too.

answered by G M

Cholera has long been known as a disease that results in a large number of deaths since it is infectious.  Cholera results in the inflammation of the gastroenteritis. This is caused by a bacteria called Vibrio cholerae. You can get Cholera if you drink food or water that has been contaminated. Cholera is known to be a fatal illness and often healthy people struck down by cholera can die in less than forty eight hours, if they are not given proper treatment. Cholera results in an intense diarrhea, with the patient losing essential body salts. A cholera patient requires oral dehydration therapy to combat the dehydration caused by the diarrhea.

In a cholera epidemic the feces of a contaminated person spread the disease to healthy people. As you can see, this can only happen in areas where sewage is not cleaned right away. It has been noticed that cholera spreads the fastest in places where the sewage is not regularly treated.

Cholera also spreads very rapidly among people who live in coastal areas.Cholera can be avoided by ensuring that the surroundings are kept clean. A good system of sewage can help prevent the outbreak of cholera. You can avoid getting this disease by drinking only boiled water and only eating food that has been thoroughly cooked.

answered by G M

Warning: does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. see additional information
Read more questions in Health Advice