Cholera has important implications in terms of personal and social responsibility. A very serious threat, cholera is transmitted and spread to humans through consumption of water and food contaminated with the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. Contamination with this bacteria most often occurs due to a lack of proper sanitation. Infected human feces in the water supply can spread the disease as can crops treated with infected human feces. Certain seafood, if eaten raw or undercooked and obtained from contaminated water supplies, can contain the bacteria as well. Rarely is cholera spread from human to human contact.
Although cholera can be life-threatening, it is nearly always easily prevented, in principle, if proper sanitation practices are followed. Individually, one can prevent contamination by following good hygiene practices, boiling, and filtering water used for drinking, washing, or cooking, or using iodine tablets, and minimizing consumption of raw foods like oysters and shellfish, especially those that originate from coastal waters, where cholera naturally exists. Individuals in areas at risk should eat cooked foods and eat them while they are hot, and concentrate on eating fruits with thick, intact skin that has to be peeled before consumption.
Socially, there are many steps that society can take to prevent outbreaks, including chlorination of water; enforcement of proper sanitation practices' proper disposal and treatment of the germ infected fecal waste (and all clothing and bedding that come in contact with it) produced by cholera victims; treatment of general sewage before it enters the waterways or underground water supplies prevent possible undetected patients from spreading the disease; posting warnings about cholera contamination posted around contaminated water sources with directions on how to decontaminate the water; and so forth.
Cholera has shown the best and worse of human behavior. Thousands of deaths are attributed to contamination caused by one sailor, who might have prevented the deaths had he taken preventative steps. On the other hand, there was an historical principle that people traveling in ships would hang a yellow flag if one or more of the crew members suffered from cholera. Such boats with a yellow flag hung would not be allowed to disembark at any harbor for an extended period of time. People on ships that followed this procedure might have suffered, but they did this for the protection of those in the harbor cities. Contrast this with the modern day case of a person knowingly infected with a possibly deadly contagious disease flying on commercial airlines despite this.
The actions of some courageous individuals, like physician John Snow, saved countless lives.