Health officials, attempting to quell this country's current cholera epidemic, have printed up thousands of posters extolling Tanzanians to dig latrines, boil water, bury human waste and not "to take your food from dirty hotels or eating houses."

Officials have quarantined wide areas, banned the transport of fruit and vegetables from infected zones, closed some schools, and taken over burying of cholera victims.

Yet five months after the epidemic broke out, cholera -- which ceased being a hazard in most of the world decades ago -- is still a serious health threat here.

More than 5,000 cases have been reported. The official death toll has passed 300 but that only includes cases treated in hospitals. Nobody knows how many people have died in remote huts and villages. Some officials estimate the number at well over 1,000 in a total population of 16 million.

Health officials say the disease is no longer at epidemic levels but on the wane. "The situation is very much improved," said G. A. Cheyo, the top civil servant in this East African nation's Health Ministry. "We think it should be pretty much over in a couple weeks."

But new cases continued to be reported in two of the eight regions hit by the disease. Travelers driving from Dar Es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean to Mt. Kilimanjaro in the northern interior encountered quarantine roadblocks at six different spots.

The cholera here is of the el Tor strain, which is supposed to be easily controlled by proper sanitation. It was brought into the country by an Arab traveler last October.

Fueled by unhealthy living conditions, it spread like wildfire over about one fourth of the country. Thirty-two people died near the seaport of Tanga in one week alone.

Many victims apparently mistook the disease for something else, and did not seek prompt treatment. Its chief symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting. Both occur in other diseases common here.

"What happens is the body very quickly becomes dehydrated," said Cheyo. "The only way to treat it is to force fluids back into the body. Treatment has to be immediate because you can lose a life in just a matter of hours."

Controlling the disease in a country where 90 per cent of the people live in rural areas, many in mud-and-stick huts with no sewage systems, has been difficult.

Teams of doctors and nurses have gone door-to-door to warn villagers dangers. They have met with local political leaders and used portable generators to show health films in remote areas without electricity.

Still, misinformation about choler is widespread. Tourists are warned not to go to some areas which have been declared safe for months.

Hundreds of posters and pamphlets printed up never seem to reach people who can see them, officials acknowledge. Food shortages have cropped up in some areas. Residents of cholera areas report that some victims buried by the government have been dug up by relatives wanting to give the dead a "proper burial."

Quarantine enforcement has been very strict in some areas and loose in others. Generally, travelers are allowed to drive through infected areas as long as they don't stop or carry foodstuffs. Residents, however, must receive special permission to leave affected areas.

Health officials have refused to launch a massive innoculation on grounds that the vaccination is only partially effective. Innoculations, one health official said, would give people "a false confidence about their immunity. This would prove a great hazard because people would be even more lax about observing precautionary measures."

Instead, health officials are basing hopes for controlling the disease on their public education program.

"I do not know if it's doing any good anywhere else but it's had an impact in my house," said one American woman who lives in an area under quarantine for the last four weeks. "My maid started boiling water. That's something I've been trying to get her to do for the last three years."