Cholera outbreak claims 5

HARARE - Five people have died and 35 others hospitalised following a deadly outbreak of cholera in the high density areas of Budirio and Glen View — raising fears that the capital city could witness a repeat of the 2008 catastrophe which claimed more than 4 000 lives countrywide.

This is the fourth time in the past 15 years that cholera — a treatable disease which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is lethal if not attended to promptly — has struck Zimbabwe.

Outgoing Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa confirmed the deaths and said government and the Harare City Council (HCC) had embarked on an aggressive joint effort to contain the highly-infectious disease.

Parirenyatwa visited the HCC-run Beatrice Road Infectious Disease Hospital (BRIDH)  yesterday to assess the facility following the cholera outbreak.

“Thirty five patients have been admitted at BRIDH with typical cholera symptoms but 11 have been confirmed after tests.

“To us this is typically an outbreak of cholera which we must contain. We must see to it that it goes away.

“We know that there was a patient who died here (BRIDH) and we are also investigating some community deaths of four people that we suspect could have succumbed to the disease,” Parirenyatwa told journalists.

He suspected two boreholes, one in Glen View and the other in Budiriro, to have been carrying contaminated water.

Tests would be carried out and if they tested positive, the two boreholes would be decommissioned, Parirenyatwa said.

“There is nowhere else in Zimbabwe where we have cholera. The teams at the Harare City Council health department and the ministry are now contact-tracing to ascertain where it originated to avoid any further spread.

“Anybody who suspects that they have diarrhoea or vomiting should report to their nearest clinic and be treated for free,” Parirenyatwa said.

HCC acting director of Health Services Clement Duri said the patient who died upon admission at BRIDH was a 26-year-old woman from Glen View who had a history of vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration.

“Rectal swabs were taken and are being processed for all the cases. We plan to set-up a surveillance tent at Glen View Polyclinic for quick monitoring of the situation. Currently our patients are on Ciprofloxacin and are being administered with intravenous fluids or are on a drip,” Duri said.

Budiriro and Glen View — like many other Harare suburbs — have been experiencing erratic water supplies and uncollected garbage.

The cholera outbreak in Harare comes as Gweru is currently battling to contain typhoid which has so far killed 10 people.

There is growing panic among ordinary Zimbabweans that the rising cases of cholera may signal a potential repeat of the disastrous outbreak of 2008 which killed more than 4 000 people nationwide.

This was arguably the worst outbreak of cholera in the country in living memory.

The outbreak was blamed on poor public health policies, as well as on the country’s dysfunctional water and sanitation infrastructure.

At the beginning of this year, the small town of Chegutu was hit by the infectious disease which left five people dead, with Zimbabwe reported at the time to have been a victim of the contagion effects of a Zambian outbreak which forced the temporary closure of the border linking the two countries in the run-up to Christmas last year.

In April, three people were admitted in Chitungwiza after the dormitory town was put on high alert following 11 recorded cases of Cholera outbreak.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae. It is an extremely virulent disease that causes severe diarrhoea.

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

It takes between 12 hours and 5 days for a person to show cholera symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water.

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

Previous researches have shown that the Zimbabwean government’s failure to avail potable water, proper sanitation or safe alternatives has driven the public into using contaminated sources of water, as well as defecating in open spaces.

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