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Cape Town - At least two children have died and thousands have been treated for gastric-related complications across the city as the notorious diarrhoea season gains momentum.
According to the City of Cape Town more than 2 500 children have been treated at local clinics with moderate to severe dehydration due to diarrhoea. Nearly 300 were admitted at Red Cross Children’s Hospital between November and December.
Sandile Bontsa, spokesman for mayoral committee member for health, Lungiswa James, pictured, said the number of diarrhoea cases seen in children this season had gone up slightly compared with last year at this time.
But there has been half the number of serious cases with dehydration. Only 57 children out of 2 519 were treated for severe dehydration.
Bontsa said health authorities were, however, bracing themselves as the worst time was yet to come, pushing up the cost of treatment to thousands of rands.
It could cost up to R14 000 per patient to treat gastro enteritis in a hospital, depending on the severity and the level of care given.
“The cost of treating a case of diarrhoea is almost negligible if it is treated early by nurses at the clinics, with a sugar and salt solution. But once the cases are admitted to hospital the costs increase significantly.
“The cost depends on what type of hospitalisation the child requires… with complications it can take up to a week in a high care bed, at a cost of more than R14 000,” he said.
While the regular diarrhoea season has not yet peaked – it is expected to do so next month. Diarrhoea is more prevalent in summer than at any other time.
Heat encourages bacteria to breed, leading to serious gastric illnesses.
In informal settlements, where there is poor sanitation, residents are particularly at risk. The cases, which start around November, usually peak during February and March.
Faiza Steyn, spokeswoman for the provincial Department of Health said since December Tygerberg Hospital had admitted 170 children with diarrhoea while 281 children had been admitted to Red Cross Children’s Hospital between November and December.
She said two children had since died at Tygerberg Hospital due to diarrhoea. Both children were younger than five.