At least 35 people have died of cholera in the capital of Benue State, Madurdi, and the town of Oturkpo. Both areas have a history of cholera outbreaks but the latest toll is far higher than in previous years.
The cases occurred in areas where conditions are known to be particularly unhygienic and where residents lack clean water.
The quality of Makurdi’s water supply is unreliable and taps often run dry, forcing many residents to drink straight from the nearby Benue River.
At least 25 of the recent deaths in Makurdi occurred near the river in the neighbourhoods of North Bank, Wadata and Modern Market, while the 10 deaths reported in Oturkpo occurred in the areas of Upu and Adoka where people often drink water from wells and local streams.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae, according to the World Health Organisation. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.
The Benue State Health Commissioner, Jarius Erube, said the government is doing everything it can to stop the outbreak but health officials in Makurdi told journalists that new patients continue to be admitted in the city’s hospitals and private clinics, and some of them remain at risk of dying.
With many people in Makurdi and Oturkpo now fearful of drinking the local water, vendors have inflated the price of bottled water.