Causes of cholera

Learn about the causes of cholera, how it is spread and where it is found.

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What causes cholera?

Cholera is a sudden and serious intestinal infection caused by a type of bacteria called Vibrio cholerae.

How is cholera spread?

You can become infected when you drink water or eat food contaminated with the bacteria that cause the disease.

You are unlikely to spread the infection to others through casual contact. However, you can spread cholera to others if you prepare food or drinks for them, even if you do not show symptoms.

Where is it found?

The bacteria that cause cholera are usually found in water or food that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person. As it can also be found in coastal waters, eating raw or undercooked shellfish is a risk for becoming infected.

Outbreaks of cholera occur mainly in places that have unsafe drinking water, are overcrowded and have inadequate sanitation.

In Canada, most identified cases result from travel to high-risk areas.

How do food and water become contaminated?

Water can become contaminated if feces from infected people enter the water supply. Food can then become contaminated when this water is used on crops or in food processing and packaging.

Food can also become contaminated if an infected person prepares food for others or touches their own food without first properly washing their hands.  

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