Biological Weapons --

Cholera has been investigated in the past as a biological weapon. It does not spread easily from human to human nor is it likely to be used as an aerosol. Therefore, major drinking water supplies would have to be heavily contaminated for this agent to be effective in biowarfare.


Cholera is a severe gastrointestinal disease. Incubation ranges from 12-72 hours depending on the dose of ingested organisms.

Onset of illness usually is sudden. Initially, the disease presents with intestinal cramping and painless diarrhea. Vomiting, malaise, and headache often accompany the diarrhea, especially early in the illness. Diarrhea is profuse - as much as 7 liters/day. That's almost 2 gallons. Due to this quantity severe dehydration with shock can develop.

How does it spread?
Humans acquire the disease by consuming water or food contaminated with the organism.


Under a microscope, the stool has few or no red cells, white cells, and almost no protein are found. The organism can be identified in liquid stool or enrichment broths by darkfield or phase contrast microscopy and by identifying darting motile Vibrio species. Bacteriologic diagnosis is not necessary for treatment, as it can be diagnosed clinically.

Treatment is primarily replacing fluids and electrolytes. The best is the World Health Organization 's oral dehydration therapy - a solution (3.5 g NaCL, 2.5 g NaHC03, 1.5 g KC1 and 20 g glucose per liter). Intravenous fluid replacement is occasionally needed when vomiting is severe, when diarrhea output exceeds 7 liters/day, or when severe dehydration with shock has developed. Antibiotics shorten the duration of diarrhea and reduces fluid loss.

Specifics on treatment can be found here

Vaccine is not recommended for routine protection in areas where cholera is prolific since its only 50% effective and protection lasts no more than 6 months. When vaccine is called for, the initial dose is two injections given at least 2-4 weeks apart with booster doses every 6 months.

Without treatment, death may result from severe dehydration, hypovole mia and shock.


Federation of American Scientists;
CBS Bioterrorism Interactive;
USAMRIID's Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbood; Fourth Edition February 2001; pages 9-10;

All contents © 2001 Stan and Holly Deyo. All rights reserved.

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