Cholera : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : V. cholerae, Vibrio

Definition

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The bacteria releases a toxin that causes increased release of water in the intestines, which produces severe diarrhea.

Cholera occurs in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine. Common locations for cholera include:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • India
  • Mexico
  • South and Central America
  • The Mediterranean

People get the infection by ingesting contaminated food or water.

A type of vibrio bacteria also has been associated with shellfish, especially raw oysters.

Risk factors include:

  • Exposure to contaminated or untreated drinking water
  • Living in or traveling to areas where there is cholera

Pictures & Images

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Digestive system organs

Digestive system organs

The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.


Review Date : 2/21/2009
Reviewed By : George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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