Cape Town - Cape Town residents who live in areas with poor sanitation could be at risk of contracting the highly contagious typhoid fever as the first cases in the Western Cape have been confirmed.
Mark van der Heever, the spokesman for the provincial Department of Health, has said three cases of typhoid had been identified in the province, raising fears of a nationwide outbreak.
Van der Heever said some of the affected patients had travelled to African countries struck by typhoid fever.
“The Western Cape government can confirm to date there were three cases for 2016 in the Western Cape,” he said.
It is the second province to confirm cases of typhoid this year. Four cases, one resulting in death, were confirmed in Joburg over the past week.
Van der Heever said two confirmed cases that involved two girls, aged 9 and 10, were identified at facilities in the Cape Town Metro while another case involved a 52-year-old male in the Winelands.
The first case was identified on January 10, and the latest case was identified on January 20.
“All three of these cases are still under investigation and we await further detail of their condition and travel history,” he said.
Cases of typhoid were identified in Hillbrow, Yeoville, Edenvale and Palm Springs in Gauteng.
Two of the patients were admitted to the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital and two children were treated at the Edenvale District Hospital.
A 27-year-old female Malawian patient died at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital on January 17. She travelled to Malawi for the festive season and returned to Joburg, through Mozambique, on January 12.
According to the latest reports, the condition of two toddlers, aged 2 and 3, at Edenvale Hospital had since improved drastically, while an 11-year-old had since been discharged.
A 16-year-old at Charlotte Maxeke was reportedly doing very well.
But the National Institute of Non-Communicable Disease (NICD) has dismissed suggestions there was a typhoid outbreak in the country, saying around a hundred cases were reported in South Africa each year.
Van der Heever also conceded to this, saying there was no need to panic as typhoid was endemic to South Africa.
“We identify cases every year with the majority of cases having travel history to Zimbabwe and other countries like India,” he said.
There is ongoing risk of typhoid fever in any area where water quality and sanitation is not optimal.
In Zimbabwe a typhoid outbreak that began in 2012, associated with contaminated water sources, is ongoing with more than 4 000 cases diagnosed to date. A number of South African cases are linked to the Zimbabwean outbreak.
Van der Heever urged people who suspected that they had the disease to seek care from their local clinics and hospitals if they experienced symptoms that were intermittent in the first week and became sustained for at least 48 hours.
He said patients with typhoid fever should pay strict attention to hand hygiene and shouldn’t prepare food until they were infection free.
The three most effective methods of preventing typhoid were adherence to strict hand washing with soap and water after using the toilet and before handling food, provision of safe water, and adequate sanitation.