Second reported case of cholera in century for North Coast

A CASE of the potentially-life threatening disease cholera has been reported at a North Coast hospital, but before you panic, read on.

According to director of North Coast Public Health Paul Corben, it was not only the second case in a North Coast hospital this century, but also a non-toxingenic strain of the small intestine infection which was not highly contagious.

"Cases of cholera that are notifiable are only particular strains known as toxigenic," he said.

"They're the ones people would generally think about... and they are very closely related bacteria but it's a different strain. They are excluded from reporting because it confuses everybody and causes concern."

Mr Corben said these strains could still be life threatening, and confirmed there was recently "a fellow who has been quite ill" at Lismore Base Hospital.

So how did the man contract the disease?

Speculation from a family member that the illness may have been contracted by sucking the head contents out of a prawn was left unfounded, with a spokeswoman for the NSW Food Authority saying that no such incident had been referred to them as having a foodborne illness component.

Mr Corben said cholera was usually transmitted through water, and as a precaution warned people to be sensible around rivers and creeks.

"It is very unusual for people to get these infections, but people should be careful not to drink surface waters as they contain all sorts of bacteria and viruses," he said.

"There's a lot of life we can't see with the naked eye, and there are still some micro-organisms that would very much like to get inside us so they can multiply.

"We just have to be sensible."

He added that good food handling techniques also decreased the risk of contracting harmful micro-organisms.

"It's really important to properly cook all foods because they can pick up micro-organisms," he said.

"Shellfish in particular need proper handling, but the NSW Food Authority has pretty well maintained and run shellfish assurance quality program."

The last case of cholera in NSW was in December, the only confirmed case in 2015.

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