Cholera is a severe, infectious diarrhoeal disease common in developing countries but is an unlikely risk for travellers. Cholera is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, and is associated with conditions of poverty and poor sanitation, particularly where drinking water is unclean.


Cholera disease causes a sudden onset of extremely profuse, watery diarrhoea one or two days after ingesting the bacterium. The diarrhoea is completely painless but large amounts of fluid can be lost in a short period of time, in some cases more than one litre every few hours.

If electrolytes and fluids lost from the body are not replaced, rapid dehydration can occur. With proper treatment the patient can recover completely within two days.

Outbreaks of cholera occur around the world, often in a seasonal pattern.


Travellers who follow guidelines for eating and drinking safely are at a very low risk of contracting this disease. However an effective oral vaccine is available for those few people who may need protection.

Most at risk are those who travel to destinations where unsanitary conditions prevail and their source of drinking water may not be secure. This includes war-torn areas, refugee camps, or regions suffering the aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes or flooding.

In 1973 the World Health Organisation abolished the right of countries to require a certificate of vaccination against cholera. However, in rare cases immigration officials in some countries may still demand this certificate.