July 26, 2010 / 12:14 PM / 9 years ago

Cholera outbreak kills 77 in northern Cameroon

A displaced Sudanese boy drinks at a water point in Otash IDP'S camp in Nyala, southern Darfur, March 18, 2009. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cholera has killed 77 people in northern Cameroon since early June, the government said on Monday, raising concern that the worst epidemic since 2004 may spread into neighbouring Nigeria and Chad.

Cholera, a disease generally spread through food and water contaminated with bacteria, often strikes the central African country where less than half the population has access to potable water, according to the United Nations.

Cameroon Health Minister Mama Fouda called on people in the region to be careful and report suspected cases immediately.

“Minimum hygiene and sanitation practices should be respected. Disinfect drinking water sources, boil all drinking water, wash hands before eating, use latrines and stop defecating in the public,” he said in a statement.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said there was a risk of the outbreak, the worst since 100 people died of the disease in the economic capital Douala in 2004, spreading fast.

“There is the fear that if nothing is done urgently, the epidemic might expand rapidly with uncalculated consequences in Cameroon and neighbouring countries like Nigeria and Chad,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

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