Background: Multiple Vibrio cholerae infections in the same household are common. The objective of this study was to examine the incidence of V. cholerae infection and associated clinical symptoms in household contacts of patients with cholera and to identify risk factors for development of severe dehydration in this cohort.
Methods: Household contacts of hospitalized patients with cholera were observed with frequent clinical assessments and collection of serum and rectal swab samples for culture for a period of 21 days after presentation of the index case.
Results: One-half (460 of 944) of all contacts reported diarrhea during the study period, and symptoms most frequently began 2 days after presentation of the index case. Antibiotics were used by 199 (43%) of 460 contacts with diarrhea. Results of rectal swab cultures for V. cholerae were positive for 202 (21%) of 944 contacts, and 148 (73%) infected contacts experienced diarrhea. Significant dehydration developed in 26 contacts; predictors of dehydration included vomiting, each additional day of diarrhea, and blood group O status.
Conclusions: In urban Bangladesh, the burden of diarrheal illness among household contacts of patients with cholera is higher than was previously estimated, and prophylactic intervention is feasible, because the majority of symptomatic cases of V. cholerae infection in contacts begin soon after presentation of the index case. Re-evaluation of targeted chemoprophylaxis for household contacts of patients with cholera may be warranted.