Vendors, communicable diseases under spotlight

HARARE - While resources and attention have been focused on lessening road carnage, among other ills this holiday season, health experts have also warned against potential threats associated with overeating and communicable diseases during  this hectic period.

The development not only comes as a recent Health ministry report has shown nearly 85 cases of typhoid have been recorded so far, but vendors and other stakeholders have been spotlighted to see their adherence to health, and safety standards in the provision of food and other products.

“…84 cases were recorded in Manicaland province, while a single case was recorded in Mashonaland West’s Chegutu District — bringing the cumulative total of typhoid cases recorded this year to 1 572,” the weekly report said, adding nine common diarrheal deaths were also recorded with seven of them being children under five.

According to the report, the fatalities were recorded in Mbire District, Mashonaland Central Province, three in Harare, two at another large referral facility and one in Chitungwiza.

Ever since Zimbabwe was hit by a major waterborne disease outbreak nearly five years ago, the country has experienced more frequent outbreaks of communicable diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea.

And these were more prominent or widespread at the height of Harare’s socio-economic crisis and where social services, and the health care system had virtually collapsed, if not nonexistent.

While typhoid is a highly-infectious disease caused by the salmonella typhi bacteria, it is mainly transmitted through food and water contaminated with human waste of an infected person.

In this rainy season, infection rates are much more quicker and rapid, while victims can die within hours of contracting the disease.

These diseases are also more common in populated areas such as Chitungwiza, Beitbridge, Epworth and many other high density places.

In recent weeks, a group called Women Unlimited (WU) said it was hoping to work more with vendors in the fight against the spread of communicable diseases and as part of government’s efforts to curb or prevent such diseases.

“Vendors are the main catalysts of diarrheal diseases and the idea is that when they sell goods such as food, sweets and cigarettes they must insist on buyers to wash their hands,” Vimbai Kapurura Mutasa, WU’s executive director said.

“Vendors should ensure the food purchased is clean and bacteria-free,” she added.

Fears of a renewed outbreak also come as 420 000-plus diarrheal cases have been recorded since the beginning of the year and over 400 people have also died.

Experts say comprehensive hand-washing can help reduce diarrheal pathogens and preventative measures must go beyond the ordinary vectors such as poor sanitation facilities, uncovered food and unprotected water sources, but other things such as cigarettes and consumptive goodies.

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