Travel Vaccines for Cholera

Travel vaccines are an important measure for anyone looking to travel to countries where certain diseases occur. Cholera is one such disease, and people travelling to a number of destinations in Africa, India, and Asia are advised to arrange for a vaccination against what can be an extremely unpleasant and contagious disease.


Cholera is a serious problem in many countries as it is readily spread through contaminated food and water supplies. High risk areas like India for example are also frequented by travellers from across the world, and it is generally advised that you secure a vaccine for cholera before you travel to avoid an extremely unpleasant infection.

Cholera is caused by the vibrio cholerae bacterium which flourishes in contaminated water supplies. The infection causes severe diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting, as well as painful muscle cramps. The condition becomes dangerous when the combination of diarrhoea and nausea leads to severe dehydration which can lead to a drastic drop in blood pressure called shock. Extreme cases of cholera can potentially be fatal.

Cholera was actually once  an issue in the UK as well, until changes in sanitation laws and improvements in water treatment  saw a decline in the prevalence of the disease until it was eliminated. There hasn’t been a single case of a person catching cholera in the UK since 1893.

The treatment for cholera is usually treatment with ORS (oral rehydration solution), a specially prepared concoction full of salts and sugars you need to take as soon as possible if you are infected to avoid shock. ORS acts as an important means of negating the symptoms of the disease, the treatment for the infection itself is a course of antibiotics. It is recommended that you take ORS sachets with you if you are going to a part of the world where the disease is known to be a problem.

The cholera vaccine

The vaccine itself is delivered orally as two separate doses that are thought to be 85% effective in protecting you against infection. The vaccine is only required if you are vising areas with a history of cholera outbreaks, or are going to risky environments like war zones, refugee camps, and disaster areas.

The vaccine does not provide 100% protection and so you should take some added precautions to prevent infection. Avoid water that hasn’t come from a sealed bottle and foods that haven’t been thoroughly cooked or heat treated.

The vaccine also doesn’t offer you lifelong immunity, and subsequent doses of the vaccine will be needed to keep you protected. You will probably need a booster dose about two years after your initial vaccination, however younger children between the ages of two and six will need it 6 months after the first vaccination.

If you are travelling abroad it is always worth finding out what diseases might become an issue where you are going. This information is readily available online, however if you are in doubt then you should consult your GP or practice nurse. Vaccines are now relatively easy to organise, particularly for conditions like cholera where the NHS supplies the oral treatment. Make sure you arrange for the vaccination well in advance of your trip to circumvent any complications as not receiving the vaccine can ruin your trip and even put your life at risk.

Where can I get the cholera vaccine from?

If you are traveling to a part of the world where cholera is a serious threat, then you should be able to seek vaccination from the condition from the NHS. The NHS covers the cost of travel vaccinations where a condition causes a particular health risk if it were to return to the UK, and as such your GP should be able to provide you with the two oral doses free of charge. You can also opt to have the procedure from a private source, although if you do so you will probably be obliged to pay for the treatment.

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