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Cholera is an acute diarrhea disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.

Cholera is an extremely virulent disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhea. It takes between 12 hours and 5 days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water. Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated.

Most people infected with V. cholera do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for 1-10 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.

Among people who develop symptoms, the majority have mild or moderate symptoms, while a minority develop acute watery diarrhea with severe dehydration. This can lead to death if left untreated.


Benin: In 2020 and as of 6 September, Benin has reported 196 suspected cases, with only one laboratory-confirmed case. Five deaths have been reported (CFR: 2.5%).

Nigeria: In 2020, and as of 6 September, 1 115 suspected cases and 61 associated deaths have been reported. Among these cases, 40 have been confirmed. This represents an increase of 65 new cases and two new deaths since the last report. For the same period in 2019, 2 497 cases, including 38 deaths, were reported.


Cholera is an easily treatable disease. The majority of people can be treated successfully through prompt administration of oral rehydration solution (ORS). The WHO/UNICEF ORS standard sachet is dissolved in 1 litre (L) of clean water. Adult patients may require up to 6 L of ORS to treat moderate dehydration on the first day.

Severely dehydrated patients are at risk of shock and require the rapid administration of intravenous fluids. These patients are also given appropriate antibiotics to diminish the duration of diarrhoea, reduce the volume of rehydration fluids needed, and shorten the amount and duration of V. cholerae excretion in their stool.

Mass administration of antibiotics is not recommended, as it has no proven effect on the spread of cholera may contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

Rapid access to treatment is essential during a cholera outbreak. Oral rehydration should be available in communities, in addition to larger treatment centres that can provide intravenous fluids and 24 hour care. With early and proper treatment, the case fatality rate should remain below 1%.

Zinc is an important adjunctive therapy for children under 5, which also reduces the duration of diarrhea and may prevent future episodes of other causes of acute watery diarrhea.

Breastfeeding should also be promoted.

Prevention and control

A multifaceted approach is key to control cholera and to reduce deaths. A combination of surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, social mobilization, treatment, and oral cholera vaccines are used.

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