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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.

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.

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


  • 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


  • do not eat uncooked fruit and vegetables (including salads) that you have not 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

There's a vaccine for cholera, but most people do not 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.