Cholera death toll keeps rising

HARARE - The death toll from the cholera outbreak has risen to 20 people from 16 over the weekend, the Daily News heard yesterday.

This comes as government declared an emergency on Harare to monitor the epidemic.

Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo confirmed yesterday that 20 people have succumbed to the waterborne disease at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital (BRIDH), barely a week after the plague was first detected.

More than 2 000 people have been infected with the disease.

Cholera, which last killed 4 000 people in 2008, is most common in places with poor sanitation, crowding, war, and famine.

The latest outbreak was first detected in Harare’s Glen View and Budiriro high-density suburbs after a 26-year-old woman died upon admission at BRIDH on Thursday last week.

“It is clear now that we have an epicentre in Glen View and Budiriro and so far 20 deaths have been recorded and that does not include what might happen with today’s situation,” said Moyo.

“Because of that, I have declared an emergency on Harare to monitor this outbreak. Thematic teams will be working specifically on their sections to contain the outbreak,” he added.

Moyo said government’s major headache in the affected areas has been the schools, where they have had to suspend classes at Glen View 5 Primary School after decommissioning a borehole, which caused the illness and subsequent deaths of some children.

“We may do the same in some other schools until we can provide fresh water,” he said.

“We have isolated three species of germs in the water, that is, salmonella, E Coli and one that causes typhoid. The doctors have noticed that there is some resistance to some antibiotics but others are being received. We have asked for assistance from our partners namely Unicef, Delta Corporation, World Health Organisation and Medecins Sans Frontieres,” Moyo said.

He said interventions also included increasing the nursing staff at the Budiriro and Glen View treatment centres and at BRIDH.

All wells in the affected areas have been closed and alternative sources are being provided for by the assisting partners.

Moyo blasted the Harare City Council (HCC) for ignoring burst sewers for months, while exposing people to cholera.

“We realised that someone was sitting on their laurels. In this case HCC has had a big problem and it arose after blocked sewers which were reported and not attended to for two months. Now we have ended up with the whole of Glen View and Budiriro being infected.

“The other problem is that garbage has not been collected regularly and no water availability as well. The other major problem is of vending meat and fish and we have agreed to police the affected area strictly including during the night with the help of the Zimbabwe Republic Police,” Moyo said.

Public health specialist Prosper Chonzi told the Daily News that the reoccurrence of typhoid in Glen View and Budiriro was because of feacal matter mixing with food.

Chonzi said the moment burst sewers go unattended for long and have oral contact with humans because cholera has a short incubation period before someone starts showing signs of illness.

“The natural habitat for cholera is sewer and if it is disturbed and gets into contact with people orally through contaminated food and water, people will definitely get sick. People wash their fruit and vegetables with contaminated water and get sick. The problem with the affected areas is that all their underground water is contaminated with salmonella vibrio which causes cholera. One of the tested boreholes had countless bacteria. To avoid any more loss of lives people should go to the clinic the moment they start vomiting,” Chonzi said.

Harare Mayor Herbert Gomba said council has increased the staff at their treatment centres in order to treat the influx of patients.

He said the city together with development partners and corporates had taken water bowsers to Glen View to service the community.

“The burst sewers are now being attended to and people are getting water. We have sent out teams of health workers into the community to monitor the situation and report back,” Gomba said.

According to latest reports from the ministry of health, cholera has spread to Midlands, Mashonaland Central, Masvingo and Manicaland provinces.

The spread could, however, be accelerated by relatives who go and bury the deceased in their rural homes without monitoring from health workers.

Ideally, when a person dies from cholera they should be buried in the place they contracted the disease to avoid possibly contaminating a new area.

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