What’s killing South Africans

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Paulina Mashapu, a TB survivor, speaks at the Saulsville Arena during the 2014 World TB Day commemoration. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Johannesburg - The number of people who died of tuberculosis in one year could fill the Wanderers cricket stadium in Joburg one-and-a-half times over. It is South Africa’s biggest natural killer.

Statistics South Africa released its “Mortality and Causes of Death in South Africa” report in Pretoria on Tuesday, which said one in 10 deaths in 2011 were as a result of TB.

Data for the report was collected through the South African civil registration system, which is maintained by the Department of Home Affairs and is categorised according to the International Classification of Diseases.

A total of 54 112 people died of TB in 2011, which is 1.6 times the cricket stadium’s capacity of 34 000 – but the figure is declining.

In 2009, 69 816 people died of the same disease, which dropped to 63 281 the following year.

Influenza and pneumonia is the second leading cause of natural deaths at just short of 34 000, followed by cerebrovascular diseases, which affect the circulation of blood to the brain.

Cerebrovascular diseases were previously fourth, behind intestinal infectious diseases, in 2009 and 2010, but the latter has dropped significantly from 27 548 to 19 376 in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

In terms of non-natural causes of death, the report indicated that one in 10 of these was as a result of assault, while another 10 percent were from transport accidents.

This means 1 percent of the total deaths in 2011 were attributable to assault and transport accidents.

“Information on non-natural causes of death is important in South Africa, considering the high levels of violence experienced in the country,” the report says.

The leading cause of non-natural deaths is “other external causes of accidental injury”, which comprises 61 percent of non-natural deaths and is broken down into subcategories.

The leading cause of death in these subcategories was attributed to “other and unspecified factors (51.8 percent)”, followed by “accidental threats to breathing (15 percent – for example, choking on a sweet)”.

 

The report also shows there were four times more male than female deaths due to “other external causes of accidental injury” (14 715 compared to 3 398).

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