Three people have died from cholera in Lagos (Wiki commons)

At least 70 people have died from cholera in a number of states across Nigeria in the last 10 day, officials have said.

In the northewestern state of Zamfara alone, 50 people have died.

About 100 people have been hospitalised in Namu village in the central Plateau state, with nine confirmed deaths, AFP reported.

"Over 96 persons have been infected by cholera and hospitalised while nine persons have lost their lives as a result of the outbreak of the disease," state epidemiologist Raymond Yuryit said.

The infection has also spread to the major city of Lagos, where three people have died. Jide Idris, the Lagos health commissioner, confirmed the outbreak, saying that 13 people had been diagnosed with cholera.

He said: "Although many of the cases have been treated and patients discharged in several health facilities, three have been confirmed dead.

"Surveillance and investigation discovered that a large number of the cases came from Amuwo-Odofin, Apapa, Lagos Island, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Oshodi-Isolo and Surulere local government areas.

"Water was the source [of the infection] in Ikare community in Amuwo-Odofin, and Apapa local government areas."

Idris urged people to wash their hands frequently and boil water before cooking if unsure of the source.

Cholera spreads through water and infects the intestine causing vomitting and diarrhoea (wiki commons)

"Cholera should be suspected in any person who develops diarrhoea with or without vomiting, weakness, restlessness, irritability and dry mucous membrane.

"A person with low blood pressure, leg cramps, excessive loss of body fluids (dehydration), or who frequently stool, could also be suspected of the disease. Adequate measures should be taken in order to reduce the risk of contracting the disease.

"Boiling of water would be necessary for water that residents are not sure of its source; food should also be cooked thoroughly."

Eight people died and 10 were treated in hospital for cholera in the southwest state of Oya in September.

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine which is caused by bacteria. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea and vomiting, which leads to severe dehydration.

It is normally picked up by drinking water or eating food contaminated by the faeces of an infected person, some of whom have no apparent symptoms. Cholera is able to spread rapidly when bacteria enters waterways, groundwater and drinking water, but it can also be spread from person to person in some cases.

Yuryit said the outbreak in Namu village was a result of recent ethnic clashes. Around 7,000 people have recently been displaced as a result of clashes and are staying in the village.

He said overcrowding and poor hygiene had led to the outbreak of cholera.

Outbreaks of cholera normally occur between April and October during the rainy season. Around 2,000 people died during outbreaks in 2010 and 2011.