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Cholera is an often severe and potentially fatal diarrheal disease caused by toxin-producing strains of the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. It is spread by food and water that is contaminated by the feces of an infected person. The disease can spread rapidly in areas of the world with inadequate sanitary conditions and treatment of sewage and drinking water. The bacteria live in seawater in warmer climates and can cause illness in persons eating raw or undercooked shellfish from contaminated waters. Vibrio cholerae does not naturally occur in the United States and is primarily acquired during travel to Africa, Asia, or Latin America. Outbreaks have also been caused by contaminated seafood brought back to the United States by travelers.

Resources for the general public

Resources for health care professionals

Purpose of surveillance:

  • To identify outbreaks
  • To identify and eliminate sources of transmission including contaminated food and water

Cholera case data

Local epidemiology:

The last reported case of toxigenic cholera in King County occurred in 2003 in an international traveler. Only three cases of toxigenic cholera have been reported in Washington state during 1990-2012; all cases were associated with travel outside of the United States. For information on cases of non-toxigenic cholera, see Vibriosis.