Cholera is rare in the United States, but it’s still common in some other countries. Every year, more than 95,000 people around the world die from cholera. The good news is the cholera vaccine can lower the risk that people traveling to countries with cholera will get the disease.

The cholera vaccine is an oral (swallowed) vaccine.

Why is the cholera vaccine important?

The cholera vaccine is very effective at preventing the severe diarrhea (watery poop) and throwing up caused by this disease. Cholera symptoms can lead to dehydration (not having enough water in the body), kidney failure, or coma that can be deadly if it isn’t treated right away.

Americans can come in contact with cholera while traveling. If you’re traveling to a country where cholera is spreading, getting vaccinated is one way to protect yourself.

What is cholera?

Cholera is caused by a type of bacteria. Symptoms of cholera include:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Throwing up
  • Fast heart beat
  • Muscle cramps
  • Low blood pressure

People with severe cases of cholera can get dehydrated and die in just a few hours.

Cholera spreads when poop from a person who has it gets in water or food. Cholera can spread when:

  • Waste from sewers gets into drinking water
  • Someone who has cholera doesn’t wash their hands before preparing food

If you’re traveling to a place where people get cholera, it’s important to learn what’s safe to eat and drink — and to practice good hygiene (like washing your hands). Learn more about cholera.

Who needs to get the cholera vaccine?

Most people don’t need to get the cholera vaccine. But doctors may recommend it for people ages 18 through 64 years who are traveling to an area where people are getting cholera.

Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from cholera while traveling. To find out if the cholera vaccine is recommended where you’re traveling, visit CDC’s travel website.

Who should not get the cholera vaccine?

Some people should not get the cholera vaccine — or may need to wait to get it. Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:

  • Have had allergies to the cholera vaccine in the past
  • Have other severe allergies
  • Have recently taken antibiotics
  • Are taking anti-malaria drugs
  • Have a weakened immune system

If you’re sick, you may need to wait until you’re feeling better to get the cholera vaccine.

What are the side effects of the cholera vaccine?

Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea

Serious side effects from the cholera vaccine are very rare.

Like any medicine, there's a very small chance that the cholera vaccine could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting the cholera vaccine is much safer than getting cholera. Learn more about vaccine side effects.

Get vaccinated

Getting vaccinated is easy. Vaccines are available at the doctor’s office and many pharmacies — and most are covered by insurance.

Find out how to get vaccinated.

Content created by Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP)
Content last reviewed