Acute watery diarrhoea and cholera in Bangladesh

03 August 2021

Article: 55/3103

From 1 January to 11 July 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 77,122 cases of acute watery diarrhoea in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, with 36 of these cases confirmed as cholera. Cox’s Bazar is the location of the world’s largest refugee camp, which has significant public health challenges.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of faecally contaminated food or water, and occasionally foodstuffs such as shellfish. Acute watery diarrhoea may be caused by infections other than cholera, which are transmitted in the same way.

Advice for travellers

Severe cholera is rare in travellers, however mild cases may present as travellers' diarrhoea. Travellers to the region are advised to only consume safe food and water, and are also advised that good personal hygiene is essential, in particular frequent hand washing.

A vaccine is available to protect against cholera, but as the risk to most travellers is very low, it is only recommended for: 

  • volunteers, aid workers and medical personnel in disaster relief situations where cholera outbreaks are likely 
  • those travelling to work in slums or refugee camps, areas affected by natural disasters, or countries experiencing cholera outbreaks and where care with food and water is difficult or not possible

Further information relating to cholera can be found on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.

Source: TRAVAX, 27 July 2021