Cholera – Vaccination & Outbreaks

Across the African continent, there is an ongoing outbreak of Cholera infection. Nine countries have reported cases as well as deaths to the World Health Organisation. These include the popular destinations of Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia.

In Kenya, outbreaks have occurred in the main Cities of Nairobi and Mombasa and in Zambia, the majority of cases are in Lusaka. The Zambian Authorities have now started a vaccination programme for the residents of Lusaka to prevent the spread.

About Cholera

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal illness that is spread through contaminated food and water. Disease transmission is linked to poor access to clean water and sanitation facilities. As it is highly infectious, the disease can spread rapidly leading to outbreaks.

The infection can take 12 hours to 5 days to manifest following exposure and can present with profuse watery diarrhoea. The majority of people infected have mild symptoms that are easily treated with oral rehydration salts. In those who develop severe symptoms, the disease can lead to dehydration and death in a few hours of onset if treatment is not sought urgently. Over 50 percent of the most severely affected patients die within a few hours. Severe disease is more likely to occur in those with lowered immunity, pre-existing liver disease or if a high number of infecting bacteria is ingested.


Maintaining food and water hygiene is key to prevention of cholera and other infections transmitted this way, such as hepatitis A and Typhoid.

All travelers should:

  • Only drink boiled or bottled water-it may be necessary to use bottled water to brush teeth also.
  • Avoid any ice
  • Only eat food that has been thoroughly cooked-avoid salads, uncooked fruit and vegetables.
  • Avoid raw or under-cooked meat, fish and shellfish.

Vaccination is another method to reduce the risk of infection. The cholera vaccine is available as a drink and can be given to individuals from 2 years and over. It is available at all CityDoc Travel Clinics.

The vaccine consists of 2 doses in individuals above 6 years of age and 3 doses in children between 2-6 years of age.

As the vaccine is inactivated, it cannot cause the disease and nor is the vaccinated person infectious afterwards.

The vaccine should be considered if you are:

  • Travelling to a country with an active outbreak of Cholera
  • If you have an underlying condition, such as liver disease, or immune disorders that will predispose to severe infection.
  • If you are going to undertaking activities that may increase the risk of contracting the infection, such as Humanitarian Aid Work, voluntary work or travel o remote locations where access to clean water may be inadequate.

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