What is Cholera?
- Cholera is a diarrhoeal illness caused by a bacterial infection in the intestine.
- Cholera causes severe watery diarrhoea and may cause vomiting.
- Cholera can cause death from dehydration (the loss of water and salts from the body) within hours if not treated.
How is Cholera Spread?
- Cholera bacteria are present in the faeces of infected people.
- Cholera is not likely to spread directly from one person to another. However, household contacts of cholera cases and persons living in proximity of a confirmed cholera case are at higher risk of disease.
How to Protect Yourself from Cholera
a) Personal hygiene and sanitation
- Wash your hands with soap, ashes or lime and safe water:
- before cooking
- before eating and before feeding your children
- after using the latrine (or cleaning your children after they have used the latrine)
- after taking care of and/or touching a sick person
- Wash all parts of your hands – front, back, between the fingers and under the nails.
- Use the latrine to defecate. If latrines are not available, defecate away from a body of water and then bury your faeces. Children’s faeces should be disposed of in the same way.
- Keep the latrine clean.
b) Food: Cook it, peel it or leave it
- Cook raw food thoroughly.
- Eat cooked food immediately, while it is still warm.
- Cover cooked food and store it carefully in a cool place.
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly before eating.
- Avoid contact between raw food and cooked food.
- Wash hands before preparing, cooking or eating food.
- Wash vegetables thoroughly with soap and safe water before eating.
- Eat fruit and vegetables you have peeled yourself.
- Wash your cutting board especially well with soap and safe water.
- Wash your utensils and dishes with soap and safe water.
c) Safe Drinking Water
- Collect water from a known safe source (where quality is being monitored on a frequent basis).
- Even if it looks clear, water can contain the bacteria causing cholera.
- Boil water for at least 1 minute or add drops or tablets of chlorine to it before drinking or using it to wash vegetables or food preparation items.
- Keep drinking water in a clean, covered pot or bucket or other container with a small opening and a cover. It should be used within 24 hours of collection.
- Pour the water from the container; do not dip a cup into the container.
- If dipping into the water container cannot be avoided, use a cup or other utensil with a handle to scoop the water.
d) Water Sources
- Regularly monitor water quality as per protocol.
- Conduct a water safety assessment with the community to eliminate potential or suspected sources of contamination.
- Do not defecate in or near a source of drinking water (stream, river or water hole).
- Do not wash yourself, your clothes or your pots and utensils in the source of drinking water.
- Cover open wells and seal properly when not in use to avoid contamination.
- Hang the buckets used to collect water when not in use; they must not be left on a dirty surface.
- Keep areas surrounding wells and hand pumps as clean as possible
- Get rid of refuse and stagnant water around a water source.
What to Do if You or Your Family is Ill With Diarrhoea
- The biggest danger of cholera is loss of fluid from the body.
- Do not panic, but act quickly.
- The sick person should drink a solution of oral rehydration salts (ORS) made with safe (boiled or chlorinated) water.
- Go immediately to see the community health worker or to the health centre. The sick person should continue to drink ORS while seeking care.
- Encourage continuation of breastfeeding while a child or mother has cholera.
Taking Care of Sick People
- Wash your hands with soap and safe water after taking care of sick people, touching them or their clothes or bedding, or handling or cleaning up their stools or vomit.
- Do not wash a sick person’s bedding or clothing in a water source.
- Avoid direct contact with stools and vomit from a person who is sick with cholera. The fluids should be dumped in the latrine and the carrying vessel carefully cleaned/disinfected.
- Disinfect the sick person’s clothing and bedding with a solution of chlorine (0.2%). If chlorine is not available, the sick person’s bedding and clothing can be disinfected by stirring for 5 minutes in boiling water and drying in direct sunlight, or by washing with soap and drying thoroughly in direct sunlight.