Cholera And It's Effects In Africa
by: Kelsey Dall and Nick Darst
May 20, 2010


This page was created to inform readers about cholera, what it is, and it's effects in Africa. Even though it is not as common in the United States, it still affects people in other countries. One in particular, Africa. The people who are plagued by cholera have contracted a bacteria known as Vibrio cholerae. V. cholerae is a gram-negative, comma-shaped rod bacteria with polar flagellum that affects the small intestines of humans.

We decided to research cholera because throughout the travels of this course, we have come across many bacteria, but for some reason, V. cholerae stood out to both of us. It's crazy (unscientific wording) to think such a beautiful specimen can cause so much pain and discomfort to people infected with it.



What is Cholera?
Cholera is an illness caused by the gram-negative, comma shaped, rod bacteria that goes by the name Vibrio cholerae. Cholera is not a common illness in industrialized countries such as the country we live in here in the United States. Instead it is characterized by being in countries with poor sanitation and water treatment. In most cases, Cholera is mild however, if left untreated serious conditions will follow. Severe dehydration and diarrhea just to name a couple.

How Cholera is contracted:
Cholera is contracted when a person eats or drinks food or water that is contaminated with feces. Risk factors for the illness include unsanitary and crowded living conditions, war, famine, and natural disaster ( After a natural disaster, often times drinking water becomes contaminated.

Another way Cholera is contracted is through the eating of raw or undercooked shellfish. The few cases that we have in America are usually caused by contaminated seafood from the Gulf of Mexico or seafood brought home by people who traveled to other countries.

Symptoms of cholera:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dry mucus membranes or mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Excessive thirst
  • Glassy or sunken eyes
  • Lack of tears
  • Lethargy
  • Low urine output
  • Nausea
  • Rapid dehydration
  • Rapid pulse (heart rate)
  • Unusual sleepiness or tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea that starts suddenly
(All symptoms from Google health)

Treatments of cholera:
The most efficient treatment of Cholera is rehydration. Since your body is losing mass amounts of water, it is essential that you replace the fluids and salts lost through diarrhea. A good way to do this is to use the prepackaged sugar and salt packets mixed with water and to be drunk in large amounts. If done promptly fewer than one percent of Cholera patients die (CDC).

How can it be prevented?
If you are planning to visit a country that has poor sanitation and water treatment or recent outbreaks of Cholera, here are a couple tips to help prevent you from contracting the potentially fatal illness.

  • Drink only water that you have boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine. Bottled beverages with no ice are also acceptable.
  • Avoid street venders that sell foods and or beverages.
  • Always make sure your food is cooked and still hot.
  • Peal fruit yourself.
  • Avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish including ceviche.
  • Do not bring perishable seafood back to the United States
(preventions came from CDC)

Is Cholera contagious?
Cholera is contagious from person to person only if you come in contact with the feces of a person who has Cholera.

How Cholera affects the body:

Upon infection of the V. cholerae, the small intestine becomes the new home for the bacteria. Once the V. cholerae has settle in to it's new home, it's effects start to take place. It releases an enterotoxin that is responsible for the diarrhea associated with V. cholerae. "The cholera enterotoxin produces its effect upon intestinal water and electrolyte transport by direct action upon the luminal surface of gut mucosal cells" (Carpenter 5). The enterotoxin alters intestinal water and electrolyte transport without structural damage to the gut mucosa. This causes an increase in bodily fluid and the body can't absorb it.


How Africa is affected:
Cholera is plaguing many countries all throughout Africa. In Zimbabwe alone, as of May 30, 2009, there were 98,424 suspected cases, including 4,276 deaths have been reported by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare of Zimbabwe since August 2008. Fifty-five out of 62 districts in all 10 provinces have been affected (WHO).

What countries are specifically affected:


How many have died?
It is estimated that 120,00 people die each year from Cholera (Goodman 76).

What can we do to help?
There are many organizations attempting to stop the epidemic. The World Health Organization and its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network partners have been working with the Ministry of Health of the government of Zimbabwe with control effects across the country (WHO).


Carpenter, Charles C.J., Jr., Greenbough, William B., III, Pierce, Nathaniel F. “
Vibrio cholerae Enterotoxin and Its Mode of Action.” American Society for Microbiology Vol. 35, No. 1 (1971):

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Cholera. 2009. 15 May 2010 <>

“Cholera in Zimbabwe.” 15 May 2010.

“Cholera.” May 2010. Human Diseases and Conditions

“Cholera.” 15 May 2010. Overview

Goodman, Barbara E. and William H. Percy. 2005. “CFTR in cystic fibrosis and cholera: from membrane transport to clinical practice.” Advances in Physiology Education. 29: 75-82.

World Health Organization. Cholera. 2010. 15 May 2010 <>