A current cholera epidemic spreading across West Africa is more serious than other recent outbreaks because of the fast spread of the disease in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
"Is it worse than in previous years? Yes, because of the big outbreaks it is worse," said WHO's cholera chief Claire-Lise Chaignat.
This year's cholera epidemic across West Africa has sickened tens of thousands of people and killed around 800 amid heavy rains and resulting flooding, particularly in Dakar, Senegal's capital. Chaignat said that countries generally were not well enough prepared to handle the situation, according to the AP.
"We are concerned: although countries have reacted, they should do more preparedness so that you can diminish the effects," she said, adding that poverty is the main reason for the spread of the disease.
Epidemics of cholera, transmitted by infected water, are linked to poor hygiene, overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and unsafe water. West Africa is home to some of the world's poorest countries.
"It touches the poorest of the poor, those who live in shantytowns, don't have access to proper water and (pit) latrines," Chaignat said.
According to WHO, more than 31,000 people were infected with cholera in nine west African countries between June and late August. Chaignat declined to update that figure because of difficulties compiling overall figures.
She also warned that the cholera season is only about to start in eastern and southern Africa.