Durban — The Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal has been hailed for its state of readiness in the event of a cholera outbreak.
Currently, the death toll stands at 31, and Gauteng accounts for 29 deaths. Free State and Mpumalanga each have one fatality.
According to the Department of Health, the country has recorded a total cumulative number of 166 laboratory-confirmed cases and 202 suspected cases of cholera in five provinces between February 1 and June 6.
The national Health Department’s spokesperson, Foster Mohale, said the majority of cases were in Gauteng, which accounts for at least 92% or 152 cases, followed by Free State with 5% (9 cases). Other provinces that recorded cases were: Limpopo (1), Mpumalanga (1) and North West (3).
“The majority of these cases were diagnosed by public laboratories. The ages of patients in Gauteng range from 1-91 years, while in the Free State, they range from 10-50 years,” said Mohale.
The DA in KZN said the department in the province had responded positively to its call to implement the state of readiness.
Edwin Baptie, the DA spokesperson on health, said it was confirmed during the health portfolio committee meeting that there were no reported cases in the province, while the following measures were outlined:
- There is a high-alert status across all districts.
- That 70 officials have been trained in rapid response.
- That pamphlets and posters are being distributed.
- That meetings have taken place in all districts, municipalities and health facilities to focus on key preparedness criteria.
- That the provincial war room is being used for preparation and response.
- That there is close surveillance of all diarrhoeal cases with additional training on specimen collection.
“The DA welcomes this response given the serious neglect and dysfunctional state of our province’s water and sanitation services.
“The eThekwini and Ugu districts in particular have suffered during the past two decades and continue to endure long water outages and regular sewer outflows,” he said.
Zwakele Mncwango from ActionSA said it was a good thing that the department was putting measures in place but the government should be doing more than that.
“We need to look at what is causing the outbreak. When you look at the province, you’ll see that there is sewage everywhere and Durban is worse.
“If you can’t deal with the problem of infrastructure within municipalities and districts then there is no use in putting measures in place because you need to avoid this happening.
“It does not seem as if the government is serious about avoiding a possibility of the outbreak because contamination is easy if you have sewer challenges all over,” said Mncwango.
MEC Nomagugu Simelane said that although cholera had not reached the province, authorities were vigilant and ready to treat patients promptly.
“The province is on standby to mount an effective response should the need arise,” she said.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa went to Hammanskraal on Thursday, he said the outbreak had caused devastation, and the three spheres of government and their agencies and non-governmental organisations had been tasked with finding ways to contain the spread of cholera.
Ramaphosa said the outbreak in Hammanskraal, Gauteng, Free State and Mpumalanga, had shown the importance of safe and effective water and wastewater management.
Mohale urged members of the public to remain vigilant and to avoid known or suspected contaminated food, water and surfaces, and wash hands thoroughly with soap before handling and preparing food, or after using the bathroom to prevent possible infection.
“Never drink water from unsafe sources such as rivers, dams, or streams, unless boiled or disinfected first.
“The Department of Social Development continues with psychosocial support and social relief packages to the families of the deceased,” Mohale said.
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