The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued an advisory for travelers to Tanzania in response to the large cholera outbreak in the East African country.

The cholera outbreak has more than quadrupled in the past two months as the latest data reveals as of October 15, 2015, Tanzania has reported 4,407 cholera cases and 68 deaths.

Vibrio cholerae/CDC
Vibrio cholerae/CDC

The regions affected include Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Pwani, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Iringa, Dodoma, Geita, Mara, Singida, Shinyaga, Mwanza and Zanzibar. The city most affected is Dar es Salaam.

The federal health agency advises travelers to protect themselves by following the food and water precautions below. The risk of cholera is very low for people visiting areas with cholera. When simple precautions are observed, contracting the disease is unlikely.

  • Drink only bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water and bottled or canned carbonated beverages. When using bottled drinks, make sure that the seal has not been broken.
    • To disinfect your own water, boil for 1 minute or filter the water and add 2 drops of household bleach or ½ an iodine tablet per liter of water.
    • Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and clean water.
  • If no water and soap are available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner (with at least 60% alcohol).
    • Clean your hands, especially before you eat or prepare food and after using the bathroom.
  • Use bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.
  • Eat foods that are packaged or that are freshly cooked and served hot.
    • Do not eat raw and undercooked meats and seafood or unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
  • Dispose of feces in a sanitary manner to prevent contamination of water and food sources

Cholera is a bacterial disease that is most often spread by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Water is contaminated by the feces (stool) of an infected person or by untreated sewage. Food may be contaminated by using water containing cholera bacteria or by a person whose hands are contaminated with the cholera bacteria.

Often people have mild illness or no symptoms. However, about one in 20 (5%) infected people will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.