Defeating Cholera: Clinical Presentation and Management for Haiti Cholera Outbreak
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- Rapid high-volume rehydration will save lives
- Many patients can be rehydrated entirely with oral rehydration solution (ORS)
- Even if the patient gets intravenous (IV) rehydration, he/she should start drinking ORS as soon as he/she is able
Most persons infected with the cholera bacterium have mild diarrhea or no symptoms at all. Only about 7% of persons infected with Vibrio cholerae O1 have illness requiring treatment at a health center.
Cholera patients should be evaluated and treated quickly. With proper treatment, even severely ill patients can be saved. Prompt restoration of lost fluids and salts is the primary goal of treatment.
|Symptoms of Moderate or Severe Cholera|
|Some dehydration||Severe dehydration|
Dehydrated patients who can sit up and drink should be given oral rehydration salts
(ORS) solution immediately and be encouraged to drink. It is important to offer ORS
solution frequently, measure the amount drunk, and measure the fluid lost as diarrhea
and vomitus. Patients who vomit should be given small, frequent sips of ORS solution,
or ORS solution by nasogastric tube. ORS solution should be made with safe water. Safe
water means the water has been boiled or treated with a chlorine product or household
|Age||<4 mo.||4-11 mo.||12-23 mo.||2-4 yr.||5-14 yr.||≥15 yr.|
|Weight (kg)||<5||5-7||8-10||11 -15||16-29||≥30|
- The approximate amount of ORS (in milliliters) can also be calculated by multiplying the patient’s weight in kg by 75.
- A rough estimate of oral rehydration rate for older children and adults is 100 ml ORS every five minutes, until the patient stabilizes.
- If the patient requests more than the prescribed ORS solution, give more.
- For Infants:
- Encourage the mother to continue breast-feeding.
1. The volumes and time shown are guidelines based on usual needs. If necessary, amount and frequency can be increased, or the ORS solution can be given at the same rate for a longer period to achieve adequate rehydration. Similarly, the amount of fluid can be decreased if hydration is achieved earlier than expected.
2. During the initial stages of therapy, while still dehydrated, adults can consume as much as 1000 ml of ORS solution per hour, if necessary, and children as much as 20 ml/kg body weight per hour.
3. Reassess the patient after 1 hour of therapy and then every 1 to 2 hours until rehydration is complete.
4. Resume feeding with a normal diet when vomiting has stopped.
Patients with severe dehydration, stupor, coma, uncontrollable vomiting, or extreme fatigue that prevents drinking should be rehydrated intravenously.
|Best||Ringer’s Lactate Solution|
|Unacceptable||Plain glucose (dextrose) solution|
*Acceptable in emergency, but does not correct acidosis and may worsen electrolyte imbalance.
|Age||First give 30 ml/kg IV in:||Then give 70 ml/kg IV in:|
|Infants (<12 mos.)||1 hour*||5 hours|
|Older (>1 yr.)||30 minutes*||2 ½ hours|
* Repeat once if radial pulse is still very weak or not detectable.
- Reassess the patient every 1-2 hours and continue hydrating. If hydration is not improving, give the IV drip more rapidly. 200ml/kg or more may be needed during the first 24 hours of treatment.
- Also give ORS solution (about 5 ml/kg per hour) as soon as the patient can drink.
- After 6 hours (infants) or 3 hours (older patients), perform a full reassessment. Switch to ORS solution if hydration is improved and the patient can drink.
Signs of adequate rehydration
- Skin goes back normally when pinched
- Thirst has subsided
- Urine has been passed
- Pulse is strong
An antibiotic given orally will reduce the volume and duration of diarrhea. Treatment with antibiotics is recommended for moderately and severely ill patients, particularly for those patients who continue to pass large volume of stools during rehydration treatment, and including all patients who are hospitalized. Do not give antibiotics to asymptomatic persons. Zinc given orally can reduce the duration of most infectious diarrhea in children. No drugs should be given for treatment of diarrhea or vomiting besides antibiotics and zinc.
|Patient classification||First choice||Second choice|
|Doxycycline: 300 mg by mouth in one dose||Azithromycin:1 gram in a single dose
Tetracycline: 500 mg 4 times a day for 3 days
Erythromycin: 500 mg 4 times a day for 3 days
|Pregnant women||Azithromycin: 1 gram in one dose||Erythromycin: 500 mg 4 times a day for 3 days|
|Children ≥12 months old and capable of swallowing pills and/or tables||Azithromycin: 20 mg/kg in one dose
Erythromycin: 12.5 mg/kg 4 times a day for 3 days
Doxycycline: 2-4 mg/kg in one dose*
|Tetracycline: 12.5 mg/kg 4 times a day for 3 days|
|Children <12 months old and others unable to swallow pills and/or tablets||Azithromycin oral suspension: 20 mg/kg in one dose
Erythromycin oral suspension: 12.5 mg/kg 4 times a day for 3 days
Doxycycline oral suspension: 2-4 mg/kg in one dose*
|Tetracycline oral suspension: 12.5mg/kg 4 times a day for 3 days|
* Doxycycline is safe for treatment of cholera in children at the recommended dose. The Pan American Health Organization recommends doxycycline as a second-line choice because of limited regional availability and to avoid future overuse in children.
Zinc supplementation significantly reduces the severity and duration of most childhood diarrhea caused by infection. When available, supplementation (10-20 mg zinc per day) should be started immediately.
1. World Health Organization. First steps for managing an outbreak of acute diarrhea. WHO/CDS/NCS/2003.7.Rev.1, accessed October 25, 2010
2. World Health Organization. Management of the Patient with Cholera. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, Programme for Control of Diarrhoeal Diseases, 1992. (WHO/CDO/SER/15 rev 1)
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