The figure at left is the personification of cholera, facing resistance from a group of women. This 19th century engraving is from Barcelona.
PHAS/UIG via Getty Images.
This post originally appeared on NPR Goats and Soda and was authored by Jason Beaubien.
Cholera can kill a person in a matter of hours.
It's a severe gastro-intestinal disease, and it can trigger so much diarrhea and vomiting that patients can rapidly become dehydrated. They lose so much fluid that their internal organs shut down.
The water-borne disease has been around for centuries, and it remains a global health risk. According to the World Health Organization there are roughly 3 million cases a year and 90,000 deaths. The worst epidemic is now in Haiti, linked to cholera brought by U.N. peacekeepers and surging anew in parts of the country hard hit last month by Hurricane Matthew. There's another outbreak flaring in South Sudan. In countries that have long been grappling with cholera, such as Bangladesh, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo, tens of thousands of people are sickened every year.
"It's been in the Ganges delta from time immemorial," says Dr. David Sack, a professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.