Cholera is caused by specific germs taken into the body by way of the mouth. If this fact is understood, a person can live in a community where cholera is raging, yet avoid contracting the disease. Bowel discharges of people sick with cholera teem with cholera germs. If these discharges are thrown out without first boiling or thoroughly disinfecting them, or if they are used as fertilizer, the wells, ponds, and streams in the vicinity become contaminated. Flies, ants, cockroaches, and mice carry cholera germs. They feed on bowel discharges and other filth, and carry the germs on their feet and in their feces, contaminating any foodstuffs they may touch.
Whenever there is possible danger of contracting cholera, everybody concerned should make it an inflescible rule to boil all water before drinking it. Milk should also be boiled. Dishes and cooking utensils should be scalded with boiling water every time before they are used. Vegetables and fruits to be eaten raw should first be washed in a detergent solution, and then disinfected by chlorination for 30 minutes, and finally rinsed in cooled, boiled water. The hands should be thoroughly washed with soap and warm water before handling food.
When cholera is actually present in a community, additional care must be taken. No cold cooked foods should be eaten. No cold cooked foods should be eaten. Any item of food to be peeled and eaten raw should be treated as described above and then peeled with a sterilized knife shortly before being served. Take additional care to keep all foodstuffs away from flies, cockroaches, other insects, and rats. Take a course of cholera vaccine, even though you have previously taken such a course. The vaccine has considerable preventive value if taken often enough.
The incubation period of cholera varies from a few hours to 4 or 5 days. The onset is usually sudden, with severe cramps in the back or limbs. It may begin with diarrhea and colicky pains. The stools become thin and contain small, white, curd like masses. These are the “rice-water” stools. Generally there is severe vomiting. So much fluid is lost in the vomits and the stools that the victim suffers extreme thirst, his urine diminishes his skin dries, and his face looks “pinched.” His skin feels cold, and his lips, face, and fingernails become bluish. What has been described is a severe case; in every epidemic there are also many light cases which, except for the diarrhea, exhibit few symptoms.
The chief principles in treatment are to relieve the distressing symptoms and to compensate for extremely rapid loss of body fluids and the sodium and potassium salts they contain. It is especially important to give enough fluid to maintain kidney activity, for cessation of kidney function brings grave consequences. If the body can be supplied with sufficient fluid and essential minerals for a few days, its defense forces have a good chance to overcome the cholera germs and recovery is likely. About half of untreated cases end fatally within three to five days.
How Do You Treat Cholera Disease:
1. Secure a physician’s services as early as possible. Prompt giving of large amounts of salt solution by vein, and other special preparations either by vein or by mouth often improves the patient’s condition dramatically. The physician may also give streptomycin or soluble sulfas, plus plasma or other remedies.
2. Keep the patient in bed.
3. Until a physician comes, give the patient all the water he can hold without vomiting.
4. Do not allow the patient to become chilled. If necessary, apply hot-water bottles to the feet and spine.
5. Apply hot fomentations to the abdomen every three hours.
6. Give no solid food during the acute stage. Strained vegetable broths and strained cereal gruels may be given in as large amounts as the patient can take.
7. To protect others from infection follow these procedures:
- Boil or otherwise disinfect all the patient’s bowel discharges.
- Do not handle contaminated clothing or bedding until it has been disinfected.
- Protect all foods and beverages from flies and other insects.
- Urge every exposed person to take a course of cholera vaccine.