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Preventing Cholera in the Developing World

  • April 16, 2009

Q & A with Dr. Frank J. Bia, AmeriCares Medical Director

Q: What is cholera?

Cholera is a water-borne bacterial infection that invades the digestive tract. Symptoms include extreme diarrhea, vomiting and severe cramps. Infected patients rapidly lose body fluids and become dangerously dehydrated. Without treatment they can go into shock from low blood pressure or die. In the most severe cases, patients die within hours of becoming infected.

Q: How is cholera treated?

Restoring body fluids is critical for saving the lives of cholera patients. The most common treatments are oral rehydration solutions – inexpensive mixtures of water, essential salts and sugars, which are administered orally. For the most severe cases, intravenous fluids with a similar composition may be required to rapidly restore body fluids to a healthy level and prevent death from shock.

Q: How is cholera transmitted, and what is AmeriCares doing to prevent its spread?

Cholera is usually spread through contaminated water. In the United States, cholera outbreaks are largely a thing of the past due to advances in our sanitation and water purification systems that provide clean, drinkable water for our public water supplies. But all too frequently people in developing countries unknowingly drink contaminated water because clean water is in short supply. To prevent cholera from spreading, it’s important to disinfect water sources and supply clean water for cooking and drinking. That’s why AmeriCares and Procter & Gamble deliver PŪR™ Purifier of Water packets to countries throughout the world. Each small packet of powder contains chemicals that purify up to 2 ½ gallons of water, preventing transmission of the disease.

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