Govt screening cholera at borders

HARARE - Zimbabwe is on high alert to avert the spread of cholera, with the country screening travellers at the Zambian border points.

Speaking in the National Assembly recently, Health minister David Parirenyatwa said Zimbabwe has been on high alert since the outbreak of the disease in Lusaka early this month.

The outbreak in Zambia has affected at least 3 000 people and has claimed 70 lives so far.

Parirenyatwa said authorities have activated emergency response teams to deal with any case that could arise.

“The ministry’s National Response Team last week conduct cholera preparedness assessments at Chirundu and Kariba border posts. We were concerned and we remain concerned that the huge number of travellers to and from Lusaka where a huge cholera outbreak has been reported could spread to this country,” Parirenyatwa said.

“It was paramount that we put in place screening mechanisms at these borders for travellers to quantify the needs in the event of cases occurring there and also to put temporary holding camps or treatment camps at the appropriate places,” he said, adding “we are also...sensitising other government departments on cholera”.

“Multi-sectorial teams and committees have been activated at these border posts and are functional. They meet daily to deliberate on control measures at border posts, including Victoria Falls.

“At Victoria Falls in particular, we have made sure that there has been some drastic action that has been taken where vendors and cross borders come to Zimbabwe from Zambia and we have discouraged that movement for the time being.”

The Zambia cholera epidemic has spread to other southern African countries, especially Namibia and Malawi where it has killed eight and four people respectively.

There does not appear to be any relationship between the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe and that which broke out in Zambia as none of the affected people had travelled to the neighbouring country.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae.

It remains a global threat to public health and an indicator of inequity and lack of social development.

Researchers have estimated that every year, there are roughly 1,3 to 4,0 million cases, and 21 000 to 143 000 deaths worldwide due to cholera.

Cholera is an extremely virulent disease that can cause acute diarrhoea.  It takes between 12 hours and five days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water.

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