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Cholera Outbreak Strikes Northern Nigeria; 700 Deaths Reported - 2001-11-29

Weeks after hospital sources first started reporting it, the Nigerian government has confirmed a massive outbreak of cholera in the north of the country. Officials say more than 700 people have died in recent weeks as a result of the disease, and there are fears that it may continue to spread.

Most of the deaths have been reported in Nigeria's northern Kano state. The state's health commissioner, Mansur Kabir says at least 600 people have died of cholera in Kano since the start of this month. Authorities in neighboring Jigawa state say more than 100 people have died there.

For weeks, hospitals in the region have been reporting a growing influx of patients. Doctors and nurses at private hospitals say people have been checking in by the hundreds, and patients are dying daily.

Many Nigerians have accused the government of minimizing the scope of the epidemic until now.

Health Commissioner Kabir said Wednesday he had contracted the disease, but had overcome it. Cholera is a bacterial infection that comes from drinking polluted water. Without prompt rehydration and other treatment, a person can die quickly.

A number of international organizations, including the group Doctors without Borders, have sent teams to Nigeria to help bring the epidemic under control. But authorities fear the death toll will continue to rise as reports continue to trickle in from surrounding remote areas.