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What is Cholera?

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

Malaysian reported 133 cases of cholera in 2007 (Incidence rate of 0.54/100 000 populations)

What are the signs and symptoms?

There are several signs and symptoms, which are:

  • Sudden onset of copious, painless, watery diarrhoea. The watery diarrhoea has a fishy odors and “rice water” like appearance.
  • Dehydration, which presented as:
    • Rapid pulse (heart rate)
    • Dry skin
    • Excessive thirst
    • Sunken eyes
    • No tears
    • Lethargy
    • Unusual sleepiness and tiredness
    • Low urine output
    • Sunken “soft spots” (fontanel’s) in infants

The symptoms appear from few hours to 5 days after exposure.

How it is spread?

  • Poor hygiene conditions.
  • Inadequate treatment of drinking water and sewage.
  • Consume contaminated food and drink.


  • Rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock
  • Death can occur within hours without treatment.


  • Replacement of fluids and salts orally with Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) and also through intravenous solution.
  • Antibiotics (Tetracyclines, Doxycline, Ciprofloxacin)

How can cholera be prevented?

  • Practice Good Hygiene:
    • Wash hands properly with soap and water after visiting toilet and before preparing food.
    • Maintain cleanliness and proper sanitation especially after flood or natural disaster.
  • Avoid risky food:
    • Strees food, raw vegetables and fruits during outbreak
    • Foods and beverages from street vendors ( such as cendol and cut fruits).
    • Ice unless the ice is made from boiled or bottled water
    • Undercooked or raw fish or shellfish
  • Only eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot
  • Use only clean water
  • Drink only boiled or bottled water

What should I do if I suspected to have cholera?

See your doctor immediately.

Last Reviewed : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Aaisah Senin
: Norrani Eksan
Reviewer : Dr. Marzida Abd Latib