West African cholera epidemic set to worsen

The United Nations recently warned that the cholera epidemic in West Africa will worsen with the onset of annual rains and flooding.

The U.N. said that the current emergency will be exacerbated by ecological conditions that will set the stage for the disease to spread faster and further.

"Urgent action needs to be taken in critical areas to help stop the spread of this disease," World Health Organization's Regional Director for Africa Luis Sambo said. "Governments need to declare an emergency early so as to benefit from the necessary technical and other support of partners. Just as crucial are better surveillance and cross-border collaboration between health authorities."

The U.N. Children's Fund recently reported that there have been more than 55,000 cases of cholera reported this year in 15 countries in the region. The disease has lead to 1,109 recorded deaths.

"Public health measures must become much more of a priority for governments," acting UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Manuel Fontaine said. "We are now seeing children and their families falling prey to a disease that is avoidable."

Fatality rates from cholera have reached up to eight percent in some areas of West Africa. The WHO and UNICEF called the figure unacceptably high and noted that the rates have risen approximately 34 percent from the same period last year.