Risk factors of cholera
12 Jul 2007, 12:00
Everyone is susceptible to cholera, except nursing babies who have immunity through their mother’s milk. However, certain factors can make you more vulnerable to the disease:
- Malnutrition. People who are malnourished are more likely to become infected with cholera, and cholera is more likely to flourish in areas where malnutrition is common such as refugee camps, impoverished communities, areas devastated by famine, war or natural disasters.
- Reduced or nonexistent stomach acid. Cholera bacteria can’t survive in an acidic environment. Stomach acid serves as a first-line defense against infection. However, people with low levels of stomach acid lack this protection, they are more likely to develop cholera and to have severe symptom. Children and the elderly tend to have lower than normal stomach acid levels. People who have had gastric surgery, who have untreated helicobater pylori infection and who are taking antacids for ulcers.
- Household exposure. If you live with someone with the disease you are more likely to develop it. Up to half the household contacts of an infected person becomes sick.
- Compromised immunity. It you’re immune system is compromised for any reason you are more susceptible.
- Type O blood. People with type O blood are twice likely to develop cholera than people with other blood types.
- Raw or undercooked shellfish. Eating raw shellfish from waters where the bacteria harbours or shellfish transported by travelers from cholera endemic countries increases the risk.