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Come the monsoon and the news of cholera cases get prominently highlighted in the newspapers. Unfortunately, India remains one of the few countries where diseases such as cholera are still widespread. It is mainly due to the unhygienic living conditions and the poor awareness about the spread of the disease. Compared to earlier times we have been able to limit the threat from cholera. It is mainly because we have learned how it spreads and affects our body. Along with prevention and rehydration measures, homoeopathic medicines can be very effective in controlling and even preventing this disease.

What exactly is cholera and how does it affect our human system ? Why is it so potentially serious?

Cholera is the illness caused by a bacterium called vibria cholerae. It infects people’s intestines, causing diarrhoea, vomiting and leg cramps. The mode of action by which the bacteria produces these symptoms is this that it releases a toxin which starts absorbing water and electrolytes from the body through the intestines, producing severe diarrhoea.

Cholera can be mild or even without symptoms, but a severe case can lead to death without immediate treatment. The diarrhoea and vomiting brought on by the infection quickly leaves the body without enough fluid. Dehydration and shock can kill a person within hours.

How does one get infected with cholera? Mostly one gets infected by drinking or eating foods and drinks that are contaminated with the cholera bacteria. In an epidemic, the source of the contamination is usually the faeces of an infected person. Cholera spreads rapidly in areas where there is inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water.

What are the sings and symptoms of cholera? Medically speaking, the cholera bacterium has an incubation period of one to three days, which means that the symptoms can take from one to three days to show up from the time the infection entered the body. Cholera can be a mild uncomplicated episode of diarrhoea; or a potentially lethal disease. In the classical case of cholera, sudden painless diarrhoea and vomiting are the initial symptoms.

What are the ways in which cholera can be treated? Uncomplicated cases of cholera are self-limiting in nature and the patient recovers within three to six days. The fatalities are more than 50 per cent in untreated cases, and less than 1 per cent in cases that receive treatment.

The main aim of the treatment is to replace the lost fluids and electrolytes in the body. Initially in mild-to-moderate cases, oral rehydration is advised with the WHO recommended oral rehydration solution or with a mixture of sugar and salt in water. In advanced cases, when the patient is not in a condition to take oral rehydration, intravenous rehydration is recommended. Homoeopathic medicine Veratrum Album leads the homoeopathic table in treating cholera. It is suggested to be used in cases where there is excessive vomiting and diarrhoea with excessive thirst and weakness. Veratrum album can also be used as a preventive measure for those attending the patient or living in areas where there is an outbreak of cholera. Veratrum Album in 30 C potency can be used every half hourly in an acute situation where professional medical help is not readily available.

Preventing cholera

* Follow this rule of the thumb: for eating anything “boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.”

* Drink only water that you have boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine. Other safe beverages include tea and coffee made with boiled water and carbonated, bottled beverages without ice.

* Eat only foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or fruit that you have peeled yourself.

* Avoid undercooked or raw fish. Make sure that all vegetables are cooked. Avoid salads.

* Avoid eating foods and drinks from street vendors.

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