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Cholera In cases of cholera, comma-shaped bacteria lodge in the small intestines, causing inflammation and a slew of related symptoms.
Agents of Bioterror

incubation period | symptoms | how it would spread | treatment | vaccine

Pandemics of cholera were common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the advent of antibiotics. This highly debilitating and, if untreated, deadly disease is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

Iraq, among other countries, developed V. cholerae for use as a biological weapon. Bioterrorists would likely use the bacteria to contaminate food or water. However, it would be difficult to poison water supplies regularly treated with chemicals to kill contaminants.

Because cholera is readily treated with proper medical attention, it is less likely to be used as agent of terror in the United States.

Incubation period before symptoms
12 hours - 5 days

  • severe diarrhea, vomiting, and weakness
  • leg cramps
  • rapid fluid loss that can lead to shock

How it would be spread
Food or water. It is not contagious with proper hygiene.

Rehydration is essential. A variety of antibiotics shorten the course of illness and reduce its severity.

The manufacture of the only licensed cholera vaccine in the U.S. has been discontinued. It was generally not recommended because it protects only roughly half of those vaccinated, and immunity is short-term (3-6 months). Two newly developed vaccines are available in other countries.

Anthrax   Botulism   Cholera   Glanders

Plague   Q Fever   Smallpox   Tularemia

Chart of the 8 agents

Photo: Photo Researchers

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