Experiencing new cultures is one of the reasons besides being in the military or working that would bring you to a third world country. Broadening your horizons with travel is an excellent way to learn more about the world. However, you have to take precautions to stay healthy because water sources and waste management are not always as efficient and safe as the United States.
You can easily pick up any number of intestinal or respiratory illnesses from contaminated food and water. One of the most troublesome diseases is cholera. It is a quick moving disease affecting the small intestine caused by the vibrio cholerae bacterium. It is important to note that healthy adults normally do not get cholera. However, if you are particularly tired or your immune system is compromised by another illness like cancer or AIDS, chances are then that you might get it.
How and Where You Get Cholera
Cholera is practically unheard of in countries like the United States where water sources are normally clean and waste management and sanitary practices are in place. However, in third world countries and places where there is insufficient clean water and poor waste management, cholera is common.
Cholera is typically present in water or in food that has been contaminated. In some instances, eating raw food such as shellfish can cause cholera if the waters the shellfish was caught from were contaminated. Cholera is considered to be a pandemic with a broad presence in Africa.
Symptoms and Treatment of Cholera
There are three primary symptoms of cholera that cause severe distress diarrhea, leg cramps and vomiting. The diarrhea is watery and the leg cramps stem from dehydration due to the diarrhea and vomiting. The main risk of cholera is dehydration and loss of salt levels. Therefore, it is imperative that an infected individual eat soup, drink clear broth and other fluids.
If you suspect that you might have cholera while traveling and self-treatment is not working, get to a hospital. You will likely be started on IV solution to help rebalance the electrolytes and fluids in your body. Severe incidences of cholera may require antibiotics such as doxycycline or tetracycline, two powerful versions that can help treat the vibrio cholerae bacterium.
Protection against Cholera when Traveling
The best defense against cholera as well as other intestinal illnesses is a good offense. Only drink water that is bottled with an unbroken seal. Bring iodine or chlorine to treat your water supply or boil the water and allow cooling before drinking. Do not indulge in icy drinks as the ice may have been made with contaminated water. Only trust hot tea and hot coffee as they require the boiling of water.
Avoid raw or undercooked food such as vegetables, salads and shellfish. Do not eat food unless that it has been cooked or fruit that you peel yourself. Only consume pasteurized dairy products and avoid indulging in street vendor dining. You dont really know where there food has been!
Practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent any illness when traveling, particularly cholera. Nothing beats those pesky bacteria more than a good hand washing with soap and warm water.
Did you like this article? Then you'll really want to sign up for my newsletter. It's delivered several times a week and packed with science news and analysis. Subscibe Here.