What is cholera?

mother and child washing their hands

Cholera can be a life-threatening disease caused by bacteria called Vibrio cholerae.

A person can get cholera from unsafe food or water. This can happen when cholera bacteria spread from a person into drinking water or water used to grow food or prepare food. This can also happen when stool (poop) in sewage gets into the water supply.

Most people who get Cholera will have mild or no symptoms. About 1 in 10 people with cholera will experience severe symptoms. Early cholera symptoms include the following:

  • Profuse watery diarrhea, sometimes described as “rice-water stools”
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • Leg cramps
  • Restlessness or irritability

People who are seriously ill with cholera can develop severe dehydration, leading to kidney failure and death.

Who is at risk?

People who live in or travel to places where cholera is common are at the highest risk of getting the disease. Cholera in travelers is extremely rare but can occur in some situations such as among people visiting friends or family, health care workers, and response workers in outbreak settings.

CDC considers the countries below to have areas of active cholera transmission. For information about the level of cholera transmission and where it is occurring in a country, check the cholera section on an affected country’s destination page.

What can travelers do to prevent cholera?

You can protect yourself against cholera by taking the following steps.

Choose safer food and drinks while traveling

Follow food and drink safety tips to lower your chance of getting cholera through unsafe food and drinks.

Wash your hands often

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

How is cholera treated?

The most important step in treating cholera is to drink plenty of fluids. People who are severely ill might need intravenous (IV) fluids. Antibiotics are recommended for people who are severely ill or may become severely ill, such as pregnant people and children. Zinc treatment has also been shown to help improve cholera symptoms among children 3 to 14 years of age and shorten acute diarrhea for children more than six months of age.

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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