Gauteng health dept urges residents to stay away from contaminated water as cholera death toll rises

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Using clean water is important.
Using clean water is important.
Carol Yepes

Water is life.

But right now, it is clean water that is a valuable yet scarce commodity as the Hammanskraal community grapples with a cholera outbreak.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases says cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration.

Left untreated, cholera can be fatal in a matter of hours, even in previously healthy people. Most people exposed to the cholera bacterium (Vibrio cholerae) don’t become ill and never know they’ve been infected.

Yet because they shed cholera bacteria in their stool for seven to 14 days, they can still infect others through contaminated water. Most symptomatic cases of cholera cause mild or moderate diarrhoea that’s often hard to distinguish from diarrhoea caused by other problems.

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The Gauteng health department says the Hammanskraal death toll has risen to 17.

“The number of patients that have been seen at the Jubilee District Hospital is sitting at 165 and this number includes 18 patients who have been transferred to other health facilities in Tshwane. The number of laboratory-confirmed cases of Cholera is standing at 29. To date, 17 people have passed on from the disease outbreak. Currently 67 patients are admitted due to gastrointestinal infection.

“The Department continues to urge people to ensure proper hand-hygiene which includes thorough washing of hands with water and soap or alcohol-based sanitiser before handling food and after using the toilet. We advise the public to report to their nearest health facilities when they present with diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and dehydration symptoms, so they can receive medical treatment,” the department says in a statement.

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In March, the NICD released an alert saying there were three new cases in the City of Johannesburg and they are adults who participated in the same traditional healing ritual.

“The first three cases in this outbreak were imported or import-related cases following travel to Malawi. All subsequent cases acquired infection locally and are classified as indigenous cases. The indigenous cases are from two districts in Gauteng Province (City of Johannesburg and Ekhurhuleni). Some cases reported exposure to, or consumption of, untreated water from the Jukskei and Klip rivers and these are being investigated as possible sources of infection,” they said at the time.

The provincial department urges the public to avoid consuming known or suspected contaminated food and water.

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