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New methods of controlling cholera needed to curb outbreaks

Three cholera epidemics have affected 24 countries in West and Central Africa since the beginning of 2011, with nearly 85,000 infections and 2,466 deaths, IRIN reports.

Currently, an outbreak from the Lake Chad Basin is affecting the countries of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger, while a simultaneous outbreak in the West Congo Basin has infected the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Burundi.

"If something is not working, you have to question if the response is appropriate," David Delienne, water and sanitation adviser at UNICEF's West Africa post, told the publication. "To stamp out cholera you need good surveillance systems to identify the epicenters of the disease - these do exist but it in some places surveillance is not systematic enough."

Those in remote areas, where surveillance is lacking, tend to have the highest death tolls. In rural Cameroon, fatality rates are upward of 22 percent among infected people.

According to the news outlet, the disease is both easy to spread and easy to treat. Generic antibiotics rid a person of an infection, but many carriers don't know they are infected until it's too late.

To combat this problem, government officials from each nation are working with humanitarian groups to set up systematic information sharing at each border to identify cholera hotspots. Providing better sanitation policies in rural areas may also reduce future outbreaks.
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