Vibrio Cholerae Infection After Hurricane Ian

ABC7’s The More in the Morning team spoke with Dr. Michael K. Kim, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, to discuss how vibrio cholerae infection cases could rise across Southwest Florida after the Hurricane Ian cleanup effort.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria. The deadly effects of the disease are the result of a toxin the bacteria produce in the small intestine. The toxin causes the body to secrete enormous amounts of water, leading to diarrhea and a rapid loss of fluids and salts (electrolytes).

How does Vibrio cholerae infect the body?

A person can get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with cholera bacteria. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the feces of an infected person that contaminates water or food. The disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.

  • Fewer than 1,000 US cases per year
  • Treatable by a medical professional
  • Spreads through contaminated food or water
  • Requires a medical diagnosis
  • Lab tests or imaging always required
  • Short-term: resolves within days to weeks
  • Critical: needs emergency care

Treatment for a Vibrio Cholerae Infection

  • Rehydration Therapy - properly treated. With timely rehydration therapy, more than 99% of cholera patients will survive. That’s why rehydration is the most important treatment for cholera. Rehydration therapy for patients with cholera can include adequate volumes of a solution of oral rehydration salts, intravenous (IV) fluids when necessary, and electrolytes. When patients with cholera are not treated with rehydration therapy, at least 1 in 4 to close to half of them can die from the disease.
  • Antibiotic Treatment - Tetracycline has been shown to be an effective treatment for cholera and is superior to furazolidone, cholamphenicol,and sulfaguanidine in reducing cholera morbidity. Treatment with a single 300-mg dose of doxycycline has been shown to be equivalent to tetracycline treatment and is now recommended as first-line treatment in adults, including pregnant women, and in children.

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