Cholera cases reported in the United States since 1995 have been traced to sources outside the U.S. or to contaminated and improperly cooked seafood from the Gulf Coast waters.
If you're traveling to cholera-endemic areas, your risk of contracting the disease is extremely low if you follow these precautions:
- Wash hands with soap and water frequently, especially after using the toilet and before handling food. Rub soapy, wet hands together for at least 15 seconds before rinsing. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Drink only safe water, including bottled water or water you've boiled or disinfected yourself. Use bottled water even to brush your teeth. Hot beverages are generally safe, as are canned or bottled drinks, but wipe the outside before you open them.
- Eat food that's completely cooked and hot and avoid street vendor food, if possible. If you do buy a meal from a street vendor, make sure it's cooked in your presence and served hot.
- Avoid sushi, as well as raw or improperly cooked fish and seafood of any kind.
- Stick to fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself, such as bananas, oranges and avocados. Stay away from salads and fruits that can't be peeled, such as grapes and berries.
- Be wary of dairy foods, including ice cream, which is often contaminated, and unpasteurized milk.
Because travelers have a low risk of contracting cholera and because the traditional injected vaccine offers minimal protection, no cholera vaccine is currently available in the United States. A few countries offer two oral vaccines that may provide longer and better immunity than the older versions did. If you'd like more information about these vaccines, contact your doctor or local office of public health. Keep in mind that no country requires immunization against cholera as a condition for entry.
Mar. 30, 2011
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