Cholera epidemic kills 255 in Sierra Leone

The worst outbreak of cholera in Sierra Leone in 15 years has killed 255 people, according to the World Health Organization.

The west African nation declared the epidemic a national emergency in mid-August. The densely populated capital of Freetown has been the worst affected area in the country, with a reported total of 16,360 cases as of September 5, AFP reports.

"The western area of the country, where the capital city of Freetown is located, reported more than 60 percent of all new cases," Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the WHO, said, according to AFP.

The WHO has made no recommendations for travel or trade restrictions in Sierra Leone despite a prediction that the number of cases will increase to approximately 32,000 during September when the peak of the rainy season occurs.

The WHO set up a major cholera center of command in Freetown and is working with non-government organizations such as Save the Children, Oxfam and UNICEF to increase its aid efforts.

Public meetings are being held in Freetown to raise awareness of how to detect the disease early and how to avoid drinking water from unprotected areas. Local telephone companies are sending text messages to inform the public as well, AFP reports.

Cholera is often connected with poor living conditions and hygiene and can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.