Cholera can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting. This can quickly lead to severe dehydration, and can be fatal. Cholera is spread through contaminated food, particularly shellfish and water.

High-risk areas: cholera is found throughout the world, particularly in areas with poor sanitation, including parts of Africa, India, South East Asia, the Middle East and parts of Central America.

The cholera vaccination is not recommended for most travellers. For most people, normal food and water hygiene precautions will be enough to prevent the infection.

The cholera vaccination is recommended for:

  • aid workers helping in disaster areas, or refugee camps, or
  • backpackers heading to remote areas of a country where cholera is a risk, and where they will not have access to medical care.

The vaccine

For adults and children over six years of age, two doses of the vaccine are needed to protect against cholera for two years. After this, a booster will be required. The vaccine is taken orally (by mouth), as a small amount of liquid to be swallowed.

Children who are 2-6 years of age will need to have three doses of the vaccine. This will protect them for six months after which time they will need to have a booster.

For all age groups, the doses must be given at least one week apart, but no more than six weeks apart. The vaccinations should be completed at least one week before travelling.

The cholera vaccine cannot be given to children under two years of age.