Everyone is susceptible to cholera, with the exception of infants who derive immunity from nursing mothers who have previously had cholera. Still, certain factors can make you more vulnerable to the disease or more likely to experience severe signs and symptoms. Risk factors for cholera include:

  • Poor sanitary conditions. Cholera is more likely to flourish in situations where a sanitary environment — including a safe water supply — is difficult to maintain. Such conditions are common to refugee camps, impoverished countries, and areas devastated by famine, war or natural disasters.
  • Reduced or nonexistent stomach acid (hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria). Cholera bacteria can't survive in an acidic environment, and ordinary stomach acid often serves as a first-line defense against infection. But people with low levels of stomach acid — such as children, older adults, and people who take antacids, H-2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors — lack this protection, so they're at greater risk of cholera.
  • Household exposure. You're at significantly increased risk of cholera if you live with someone who has the disease.
  • Type O blood. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, people with type O blood are twice as likely to develop cholera as are people with other blood types.
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish. Although large-scale cholera outbreaks no longer occur in industrialized nations, eating shellfish from waters known to harbor the bacteria greatly increases your risk.
Apr. 05, 2014