Cholera is  highly contagious and spreads quickly in areas with poor sanitation [GALLO/GETTY]

An outbreak of cholera in Chad has killed at least 41 people, according to medical sources.

Mahamat Mamadou Adji, a health official, said on Friday that there had been nearly 600 confirmed
cases in the Central African nation.

Neighbouring Cameroon and Nigeria are also battling outbreaks of the fast-moving infection that causes diarrhoea in victims, leading to severe dehydration and death if not treated.

In Nigeria, officials say more than 350 people have been killed in only three months.

The health ministry said more than 6,000 cases had been reported, mostly in the north of the country, since June. It said heavy rains and flooding in rural areas where safe drinking water and sanitary facilities are scarce had fuelled the outbreak.

Cholera is highly contagious but easily preventable with clean water and sanitation. But Nigerian health officials say in many areas, wells remain uncovered, allowing tainted water to flow into the communities' drinking water supplies.

In Cameroon, at least 170 deaths have been reported and more than 2,000 people have been infected according to the UN.

Other countries in West and Central Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Ivory Coast, Benin and Liberia have also reported outbreaks of cholera since the start of the rainy season.

Source: Agencies