UNICEF: Death toll in Angola cholera epidemic reaches more than 2,500

More than 2,500 people in Angola have died of cholera since an epidemic broke out in February, UNICEF said Friday.

The disease claimed 2,584 lives with new cases still being reported in five provinces in the south and north of the country, the U.N. agency said in a statement.

The epidemic, which started in Luanda, the capital, has spread to 16 of the southwest African country's 18 provinces. Government officials have reported a total of 62,300 cases, UNICEF said.

The agency is particularly concerned about the threat the epidemic poses to children under five, who make up about 35 percent of cases, UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said.

"With the onset of the disease, it could cause death even in a few hours because of severe dehydration," he said.

As part of the effort to combat the spread of the disease, UNICEF said it is handing out water dispensers, water purification tablets and soap in affected areas, reports AP.

Cholera is transmitted through contaminated water and is linked to poor hygiene, overcrowding and inadequate sanitation. Though it can be treated easily, cholera is a major killer in developing countries.

A two-decade civil war that ended in 2002 crippled Angola's public infrastructure, including health care and sanitation systems.

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