About 1,555 people have died of cholera in Nigeria this year, marking a likely peak in a three-year-old surge in the disease in the country, the UN Children's Fund said on Friday.
"Nigeria is reporting its highest caseloads of cholera in recent years, 38,173 cases, including 1,555 deaths as of October 20," said UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado.
"My understanding is that it is peaking right now. It seems like that it has been contained but there are still new cases," from already affected states mainly in the north, she told journalists in Geneva.
On August 25, Nigeria's health ministry warned that the epidemic was starting to pose a threat to the entire country after 6,437 cases were recorded including 352 deaths this year.
Cholera is endemic in Nigeria, but the caseload started to accelerate from 1,661 cases in 2007, reaching 13,691 last year, according to UN data.
UNICEF said 80 percent of those who fell ill were women and children.
The average death rate in Nigeria ia about 4.5 percent, but it rises over 10 percent in at least three states that are affected by flooding and are home to large numbers of displaced people -- Plateau (20 percent), Sokota (16.9 percent) and Gombe (11.1 percent).
"Seasonal factors such as the rainy season with flooding, as well as poor hygiene conditions and population movements in the area contribute certainly to this unusually higher incidence of cholera," said World Health Organisation spokeswoman Fadela Chaib.
Cholera is caused by a bacteria, transmitted through water or food that has typically been contaminated by human fecal matter.
It causes serious diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to dehydration. It is easily treatable with rehydration salts and antibiotics. But with a short incubation period, it can be fatal if not treated in times.