South Africa is currently experiencing a cholera outbreak, with several cases reported in the provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo, and Free State.
The highly infectious disease has also caused outbreaks in neighbouring countries, including Mozambique and Malawi, sparking concerns across the region.
The provincial department of health in the South African province of Gauteng released a statement on Sunday announcing 19 new cases of cholera in Hammanskraal, including 10 deaths urging the public to “take extra precautionary measures and maintain proper hand hygiene as the country experience an outbreak of Diarrhoeal disease or gastrointestinal infection.”
Further, “The rising number of laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera.”
“The department has been informed of cases of people presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, in the past few days, and this has led to over 50 people receiving medical care at Jubilee Hospital,” the statement said.
Understanding what cholera is?
Cholera is a water-borne disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is contracted when a person ingests food or water contaminated with the bacterium. Cholera can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting, leading to severe dehydration and, if left untreated, death within a few hours.
What are the common causes of cholera?
Cholera outbreaks often stem from poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Contaminated water and food, particularly seafood harvested from contaminated waters, are common sources of cholera. The disease can quickly spread in densely populated areas where there is inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
“Members of the public are urged to avoid known or suspected contaminated food, water, and surfaces, and wash hands thoroughly with soap before handling food or after using the bathroom to prevent possible infection,” the statement said.
According to a spokesperson from the Department of Health, one should never drink water from rivers, dams, or streams without boiling or disinfecting first, and people generally become ill 12 to 48 hours after exposure.
What are the signs and symptoms you need to look out for?
The most common symptoms of cholera include severe diarrhoea, vomiting, and dehydration. Other symptoms may include stomach cramps, fever, and muscle pain. The symptoms can onset either rapidly or progressively, from a few hours to up to five days after infection.
What are the measures that the community has to take to keep themselves safe?
To avoid contracting cholera, people should ensure they have access to clean water and practise good hygiene. This includes washing hands frequently with soap and clean water, using sanitation facilities, and cooking food thoroughly. When travelling to areas with a high risk of cholera, people should avoid consuming raw food and unpasteurised milk and drink only bottled or treated water.
The government has implemented several measures to curb the spread of cholera. These include providing clean water and sanitation facilities to affected communities, offering free vaccinations to people at risk of contracting the disease, and educating the public on the prevention and early detection of cholera.
According to a recent article from the South African Medical Journal, the country has experienced a steady decline in cholera cases since 2009. However, the recent outbreak has underscored the importance of maintaining sanitation facilities and access to clean water to prevent future outbreaks.
Cholera is a highly infectious disease that requires urgent attention to be eradicated. The South African government must prioritise measures to provide access to clean water and sanitation facilities to curb the spread of the disease.
Communities must also remain vigilant in practising good hygiene and avoiding consuming contaminated food and water.
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