- Cholera outbreak in Malawi has killed 52 people while 1, 800 more cases have been reported since November, the health ministry official has said.
The disease which began spreading through the slums in the capital, Lilongwe, at the beginning of the rainy season last year has put a drain on health facilities, according to officials.
Health Principal Secretary Chris Kang'ombe said that 39 of the deaths occured in two shantytowns of the administrative capital Lilongwe due to perennial water shortages and poor sanitation in the city townships.
Cholera causes acute diarrhea caused by a bacterial infection of the intestine.
In severe cases, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, in these cases, death can occur within hours.
"People are not accessing safe water and hygiene methods," he said. The official however, said the deadly disease threatens to spread more as the rainy season continues.
Although Mr Kang'ombe said the country has not done a clear analysis to determine the magnitude of the disease, he said he believes the situation is worse as compared to the previous years where it was not rife in Lilongwe.
Malawi authorities said the outbreak was not linked to the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe where 3,323 people have died from the disease.
About 35 percent of Malawi's 13 million population has no access to clean drinking water while 81.4 percent of households use pit latrines, official figures indicate. 1,000 people died of cholera in Malawi in 2001 in one of the severest outbreaks.
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