Malawi’s worst cholera outbreak on record has left more than 1,000 people dead even as cases have reached 30,621, health minister Khumbize Chiponda has said.

The death toll announced on Tuesday breached a grim milestone and surpassed the largest recorded outbreak, which killed 968 people between 2001 and 2002

Chiponda on Wednesday called on people to take extra care handling the bodies of cholera victims before funerals.

“People who are dying from cholera may be washed by family members who then prepare funeral feasts… outbreaks of cholera commonly follow these feasts,” she said.

Chiponda also urged people to use proper decontamination procedures with chlorine and plastic body bags.

Most of the deaths occurred in the two main cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre where children have recently gone back to class after schools delayed opening to try and contain the spread.

Cholera regularly hits the southern African country during the rains from November to March, with deaths usually hovering around 100.