Cholera is a disease that causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration, and is usually spread through contaminated (unsafe) water.

Left untreated, cholera can quickly be fatal, even in previously healthy people. But it can be easily treated by giving people enough fluids to replace the fluids they have lost.

Modern sewerage and water treatment have virtually eliminated cholera in industrialised countries. There is an occasional case in New Zealand, usually in travellers from Asia. Most travellers to countries with cholera are at very low risk if they follow guidelines for eating and drinking safely.

If you are concerned about cholera, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

Cholera is spread by eating contaminated food such as rice, seafood, fresh vegetables and fruit, or drinking contaminated water, for example, from rivers, ponds, lakes, tanks or bores.

It is very rare that cholera is passed from person to person.

Most people exposed to the cholera bacteria don't become ill, and never know they've been infected. However, because they have the cholera bacteria in their faeces for seven to 14 days, they can still infect others by accidentally contaminating water that other people then drink.

Only about one in 10 infected people develop more serious signs and symptoms of cholera, usually within a few days of infection.

Symptoms of cholera infection may include:

  • diarrhoea, often very watery
  • nausea and vomiting (feeling and being sick)
  • dehydration, which can lead to tiredness, sunken eyes, a dry mouth, extreme thirst, dry and shrivelled skin and little or no urine
  • muscle cramps
  • collapse

Cholera is an easily treatable disease. Most people can be made better by being given fluids to replace the fluids they have lost. People who are very dehydrated may need to be given fluids intravenously, which means the fluid goes directly into a vein.

People who have had cholera and handle food or care for other people should stay away from work until they have been cleared to go back by a public health professional.

Cholera is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. This allows us to monitor the number of people who have the disease, and give health professionals advice on how to reduce its spread.

People with cholera who work in jobs where it could be easily spread, such as working with food, or in childcare or health care, will be contacted by us so we can provide advice on how to stop others from getting sick.


There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 22.11.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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