U.N.: W. Africa Cholera Epidemic Kills 500
A cholera epidemic spreading across West Africa has sickened tens of thousands of people this year and killed nearly 500 amid a long-term deterioration in health services in one of the world's poorest regions, the United Nations said Thursday.
Cholera has stricken 31,259 people in nine west African countries since June and 488 are reported dead in what the United Nations said was an "unusually high incidence" of the disease. Year-ago figures weren't provided.
"We have a crisis that needs immediate attention," said Herve Ludovic de Lys, head of the U.N.'s humanitarian-affairs coordination efforts in the region. "This crisis needs a rapid response."
As heavy rains continue across West Africa, the disease often transmitted by infected water is likely to spread into Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad in coming months, the world body said in a statement.
The increase in cholera this year is part of a longer-term deterioration of health services in West Africa, de Lys said.
"It's a region which worsens each year. That's the reality of West Africa and the situation in which we're working," de Lys said of the region containing many of the world's least-developed nations.
Difficult climactic conditions and conflict cause mass movements of people, hurting efforts to contain the disease that causes death by dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting, said de Lys.
Cholera can be treated easily if patients are rehydrated quickly.
Cholera is often transmitted by infected water, rarely a problem in rich nations but all-too common in a region of pit latrines, untreated drinking-water supplies and communal wells.