Cholera outbreak hits the Republic of Congo

A health official with the Republic of Congo has confirmed approximately 340 cholera cases in recent months that have resulted in nine deaths since June.

On Monday, Jean Martim Mabiala said on national radio that the cases and deaths had occurred in the Likouala area, which is approximately 800 kilometers north of the country's capital, the Associated Press reports.

The small Republic of Congo is typically overshadowed by the much bigger neighboring Congo. More 100 people died during an outbreak of cholera in the Republic of Congo in 2007.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cholera is a preventable, acute, diarrheal illness that is caused by an infection of the intestine with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. The bacterium is found in food or water sources that have been contaminated by feces from a person with the cholera infection. The disease is most likely to be found in areas with inadequate sanitation, water treatment and hygiene.

An estimated three to five million people are infected with cholera each year worldwide, causing more than 100,000 deaths annually. While the infection is often mild or without symptoms, without treatment, death may occur within hours. Symptoms include vomiting, profuse watery diarrhea and leg cramps.