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Cholera is caused by a bacterium, vibrio cholerae, which produces a toxin that affects the intestines. This bacterium has been at the origin of devastating epidemics worldwide throughout history.

Symptoms of cholera

  • After an incubation period ranging from a few hours to four days, cholera is mainly characterized by acute watery diarrhea associated with vomiting.
  • The severity of the disease is mainly correlated to the risk of severe dehydration, which can lead to death in a few hours.
  • Treatment thus relies on a rehydration adapted to the patient’s condition.

Epidemiology and vaccination against cholera

  • Cholera is a strictly human disease that is transmitted from person to person through fecally contaminated food and water and thus affects mainly low and middle-income countries in Asia, South America, and Africa. In 2016, a total of 132,121 cholera cases and 2,420 deaths were reported to WHO by 38 countries.(1)
  • Hygiene and sanitation are the cornerstones in the fight against this disease.
  • Vaccination against Cholera is available and can play an important role in outbreak prevention and control.(2)


1 - WHO. Cholera Fact sheet. Updated December 2017, accessed January 2018.

2 - WHO. Biologicals Cholera vaccines. Updated February 2015.