​Cholera


Cholera is a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which is contained and spread in contaminated water and food. This infectious disease usually displays mild symptoms of diarrhoea​ and dehydration; however it could also result in severe symptoms and even be fatal in a matter of a few hours due to dehydration if left untreated or not treated promptly.

Cholera is easily preventable, and it is also easily treatable with a simple and inexpensive rehydration solution.

The symptoms of cholera can develop within a few hours, or up to about five days. Most often, people who are infected by the cholera bacterium are unaware that they have contracted cholera, as the symptoms are usually minor. Vibrio cholerae bacterium (cholera bacterium) can still infect other people for up to fourteen days since it was shed, which is why it often spreads through contaminated water. Mild symptoms include slight or moderate diarrhoea. However, it is not easy to distinguish these symptoms from other causes of diarrhoea.   

The most common symptoms that may noticed in an infected individual are:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Dehydration

  • Thirst

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Low blood pressure

  • Restlessness or irritability

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Muscle cramps

  • Loss of skin elasticity

  • Dry mucous membranes (in areas such as your nose, insides of your mouth, throat and eyelids)

Even though it is now rare to be infected with cholera bacterium, it is still possible to contract the disease in endemic areas. If you are exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms, consult our esteemed doctors working with the Internal Medicine Service Line at the Aga Khan University Hospital.

If you have developed severe diarrhoea, dehydration, or feel you may have been exposed to cholera, you should visit the 24/7 Emergency and Acute Care Services at the Aga Khan University Hospital right away. If you are severely dehydrated, this is considered a medical emergency and you should seek help immediately, whether or not you are suspicious of having contracted cholera or any other disease.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

In some instances it may be clear that you are suffering from symptoms of cholera, especially if you are from or have visited an endemic area with recently. However, the only way to confirm prognosis is with a stool sample that is tested for the bacterium. There are now rapid cholera dipsticks available, especially in areas prone to the disease, which enable quick diagnoses. Fast diagnoses and speedy treatment is essential to prevent the disease from progressing and spreading, and inhibiting a potential outbreak within the area.

If it has been confirmed that you have contracted cholera, it is essential that you seek treatment immediately because the disease can progress rapidly and is potentially fatal within the span of a few hours. Treatment options include:

  • Rehydration: This is the main premise of the treatment of cholera, and replacing the fluids lost from your body is essential to recovery. Rehydration can be done orally using simple rehydration solutions as prescribed by your doctor.

  • Intravenous fluids: This is sometimes necessary in severe cases and in instances where there is extreme dehydration. In such cases, receiving oral rehydration alone is not enough.

  • Medications: Though not necessary, medications can reduce the symptoms of cholera and the duration of diarrhoea.

  • Supplements: Research suggests that prescribed supplements may lessen and shorten the duration of diarrhoea in children affected by cholera.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.