Health authorities in Nigeria's Rivers State say they have identified the mysterious illness that has killed over a dozen children within the past week. The state's health commissioner, Dr. Sampson Parker, says it was an outbreak of ecoli. He tells VOA English to Africa reporter Chinedu Offor the government has taken steps to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

"The health team visited; yes, there are people who have gastroenteritis, some children; they saw about 17 of them at once. They treated them immediately?gave health talks and they took samples of the stool and water in the environment and came back to Port Harcourt, leaving behind some drugs and first aid equipment for them."

"Two days ago, we got a report back from the lab which says that what the problem was was actually a form of diarrheal illness and not cholera, but ecoli."

Dr. Parker says the number of children killed by the disease has risen. "Final report we had could go up to ten, or 11, but I just received a letter of appreciation by the community leaders, the chiefs, for our prompt attention to the challenge they had and telling us that everything is now okay."

 He says the government has put in place measures to stop the spread of the disease. "We have motivated the primary care staff on ground to do more vigorous health education, of keeping a better sanitary habit and making sure that even though they get the water from where they get it, it is better [for them to] boil it first before keeping (it) for drinking and making sure that the environment is clean and (the) food is appropriately stored in a proper way."