Aid workers at UNICEF hope to be as successful as possible in their efforts to combat a cholera outbreak that is taking lives and spreading rapidly across West and Central Africa.

“We’re on it!” spokesman Patrick McCormick told Medical Daily.

“We’re trying to get it under control, but cholera is one of the fastest spreading diseases in the World…we are doing our best.”

There have been more than 85,000 reported cases of cholera, resulting in 2,466 deaths this year. UNICEF said its one of the worst cholera outbreaks ever.

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea. The disease especially affects the poor because of a lack of access to clean water and improved sanitation.

“The fatality rates are unacceptably high and we are doing the best we can to try and bring them down,” said McCormick.

The mortality rates range from 1 percent to 22 percent in Cameroon and can potentially reach much higher levels in many countries if the disease is not controlled.

The most significant increases in 2011 are in Chad, Cameroon and in Western Democratic Republic of Congo, according to UNICEF.

There are also three major cross border cholera epidemic outbreaks in West and Central Africa:

- The Lake Chad Basin affecting Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger

- West Congo Basin which includes the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, and the Central African Republic

- Lake Tanganyika, which includes the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

There were smaller cholera epidemics in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Togo that are reportedly, under control.

Children are more vulnerable to cholera as they dehydrate faster with malnourished children, especially at risk.

UNICEF, the United Nations' Children's Fund, is providing treatment kits, conducting community awareness campaigns on hygiene, assisting with epidemiological surveys to ensure better targeting of control efforts, and spreading out medical teams to try and get everything under control.

UNICEF is calling upon governments to coordinate the preparation and response to ensure close collaboration with neighboring countries and hopes to encourage cross border coordination at all levels, from the district to the national level.

“I really hope that, with all that we’re doing, we can get it under control and bring down the mortality rate,” said McCormick.