CholeraOverview

Cholera is an infection that can cause severe diarrhoea. It's not found in the UK, but there's a very small risk of getting it while travelling in some parts of the world.

Check if you could be at risk of cholera

You can catch cholera from:

  • drinking unclean water
  • eating food (particularly shellfish) that's been in unclean water
  • eating food that's been handled by an infected person

The risk of getting it while travelling is very small.

It's mainly found in places without a clean water supply or modern sewage system, such as parts of Africa and Asia.

You can check the risks for the area you're travelling to on the Travel Health Pro website.

How to avoid cholera while travelling

Good hygiene can help stop you getting ill while travelling in areas where cholera is found.

Do

  • wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating
  • only drink tap water that's been boiled or bottled water
  • brush your teeth using bottled or boiled water

Don't

  • do not eat uncooked fruit and vegetables (including salads) that you haven't washed with bottled or boiled water and prepared yourself
  • do not eat shellfish and seafood
  • do not eat ice cream or have ice in your drinks

You can get vaccinated against cholera if you're at risk

There's a vaccine for cholera, but most people don't need it.

It's usually only recommended if either:

  • you're travelling to an area where cholera is common and you'll be visiting remote places without access to medical care
  • you're an aid or disaster relief worker going to an area where a cholera outbreak is likely

The vaccine is given as a drink. For adults, 2 doses (given 1 to 6 weeks apart) can provide protection for up to 2 years.

You need to have had both doses at least a week before travelling.

If you need the cholera vaccine, you may be able to get it for free on the NHS. Ask at your GP surgery.

See a doctor if you:

  • have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom
  • keep vomiting and are unable to keep down fluid
  • have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Tell the doctor if you have been in an area where cholera is found in the last few weeks.

You may need treatment to stop you becoming dangerously dehydrated.

Page last reviewed: 16/04/2018
Next review due: 16/04/2021