Cholera bacteria

Cholera is an infectious and sometimes fatal disease of the small intestine, often accompanied by severe nausea and diarrhea. (iStock)

A cholera outbreak in central Mexico has risen to 159 confirmed cases and spread to four states as well as the capital, the country's health minister said.

One death has been attributed to the outbreak, the ministry said as it launched a nationwide public health campaign aimed at preventing further infections.

The east-central state of Hidalgo has been the worst affected with 145 confirmed cases, including the death of a 75-year-old woman. Also affected were the states of Mexico with nine, Veracruz with two, San Luis Potosi with one, and another couple in Mexico City, said Health Minister Mercedes Juan.

What is cholera?

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Its symptoms include:

Mild to moderate diarrhea with or without vomiting.
In more severe cases, frequent watery diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration and even death if not treated promptly.

Transmission

  • Eating undercooked or raw shellfish or fish.
  • Eating or drinking food or water contaminated by infected persons.
  • Exposure to feces of an infected person.

— Public Health Agency of Canada 

Eight in 10 cases have been successfully treated, the minister said, while those infected with the disease in the past several weeks range in age from three to 86.

She added that another 3,075 "probable cases" have been detected.

The source of the outbreak is believed to be the Rio Tecoluco in Hidalgo, which has tested positive for cholera and provides fresh water for local residents, said David Korenfeld, head of Mexico's national water commission.

Cholera is an infectious and sometimes fatal disease of the small intestine, often accompanied by severe nausea and diarrhea.

The outbreak is the first local transmission of cholera recorded since the country's last cholera epidemic ended in 2001, according to a report last week by the Pan American Health Organization.