Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Every year there are an estimated 3 to 5 million cholera cases and 100 000 to 120 000 deaths due to cholera. The short incubation period of two hours to five days, enhances the potentially explosive pattern of outbreaks.
Cholera is an extremely virulent disease. It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours. About 75% of people infected with Vibrio cholerae do not develop any symptoms, although the bacteria are present in their faeces for 7–14 days after infection and are shed back into the environment, potentially infecting other people.
Globally, cholera incidence has increased steadily since the beginning of the millenium with cholera outbreaks persisting in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are a number of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region that are in a state of complex emergency. Lack of safe water supply and poor environmental sanitation in war ravaged countries are formidable challenges.