Cholera is characterized by watery diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, all of which quickly lead to severe dehydration and, if not treated, death, according to the Mayo Clinic. With near-immediate effects on the body including irritability, sunken eyes, dry mouth, severe thirst, low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, dehydration can occur within just hours of the initial onset of cholera symptoms.
Cholera is easily treatable, however. Because the dehydration can set in so quickly, seeking immediate medical help at the first sign of infection is important, according to WebMD. Treatment typically consists of rehydration and can be achieved both orally and through intravenous solutions to restore natural fluid levels in the body. Antibiotics are also typically administered, but are not part of the emergency treatment of cholera. They do, however, kill the bacteria, can cut the duration of the diarrhea and prevent the spread of the bacteria from an infected person's stool.
Cholera is spread by contaminated drinking water, and in some cases, contaminated seafood such as shrimp, according to WebMD. Modern water and sewage systems have greatly reduced its spread in America, however the disease is still prevalent in other parts of the world where poor sanitation, crowding, famine and war is a problem.