Picture: @HungryLionZM/Twitter

Johannesburg – Three of South African retailer Shoprite’s Hungry Lion fast-food restaurants have been forcibly closed in Zambia after testing positive for the bacterium that causes cholera, CNBCAfrica reports.

The disease has hit Zambia hard with 51 people dying and more than 2 000 people falling ill in the capital Lusaka.

Local government minister Vincent Mwale confirmed that inspectors had found contaminated food at three Hungry Lion branches in Lusaka.

Initially the outbreak was attributed to contaminated water from shallow wells.

However, subsequently the spread of the deadly disease was linked to hygiene conditions in the restaurants and the manner in which employees from infected areas were handling the food.

“We have since directed the restaurants to close and have had meetings with the management to see how hygiene conditions can be improved,” said Mwale.

President Edgar Lungu last week directed the military to help fight the spread of the waterborne disease.

The disease has spread from densely populated areas of Lusaka with poor sanitation to lower-density areas.

Neighbouring Malawi has registered 157 cases and four deaths, its health minister said.

Cholera spreads rapidly and can kill within hours if not treated with oral rehydration, solutions and antibiotics. Symptoms include acute watery diarrhoea.

African News Agency/ANA