Health Ministry: Cholera epidemic in Nigeria, which has killed 352, threatens entire country

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nigeria: Cholera epidemic death toll rises to 352

ABUJA, Nigeria — All of Nigeria is at risk in a cholera epidemic that has killed 352 people in only three-months time, health officials warned Wednesday, as the country’s rainy season continues to spread the water-born infection.

The nation’s Health Ministry issued a statement saying Nigeria has had more than 6,400 cases of the disease since June. Doctors now have detected it in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

“Epidemiological evidence indicates that the entire country is at risk,” the statement read.

Cholera is a fast-moving infection that causes diarrhea in victims, leading to severe dehydration and possible death. The infection is highly contagious yet easily preventable with clean water and sanitation.

The health ministry blamed the recent outbreak on heavy seasonal rains spreading the infection across rural communities without access to proper toilet facilities. In many areas, wells remain uncovered, allowing tainted water to flow into the communities’ drinking water supplies.

The Nigerian cases comes as an outbreak in neighboring Cameroon has killed 155 people out of 2,000 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, the health ministry says a measles outbreak in four states has killed 83 and sickened more than 5,000 so far this year. Measles is usually characterized by coughing, rash and high fever, and is fatal in rare instances, though a vaccine exists to prevent the disease.

The outbreak comes after the World Health Organization warned in May that measles is making a rapid comeback in the world, as funding cuts for vaccination campaigns have allowed the disease to spread.

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