While cholera is not a major threat in the United States, individuals traveling abroad this holiday season should be aware of how the disease is transmitted and what can be done to prevent it.

Amid a resurgence of the cholera around the world, WHO officials report that the global stockpile of cholera vaccines the organization helps manage is “currently empty or extremely low”.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria. Sickness can occur when an individual swallow food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria.

About 1 in 10 people with cholera will experience severe symptoms. In early stages, this includes:

  • profuse watery diarrhea, sometimes described as “rice-water stools”
  • vomiting
  • thirst
  • leg cramps
  • restlessness or irritability

People with severe cholera can develop severe dehydration, which can lead to kidney failure. Untreated, severe dehydration can lead to shock, coma, and death within hours. The CDC suggest clinicians look for signs of dehydration when examining a patient with profuse watery diarrhea, which include rapid heart rate, loss of skin elasticity, dry mucous membranes, low blood pressure.

According to the U.N. health agency, global fatality rates are rising and there are around 30 countries around the world that have reported cholera outbreaks this year, about a third higher than in a typical year.

Learn more here.