20 December 2013

Cholera risk in Limpopo

Limpopo residents who rely on rivers or boreholes for their drinking water are advised to boil it first to guard against cholera.

Limpopo residents who rely on rivers or boreholes for their drinking water were advised to boil it first to guard against cholera this rainy season.

Health department spokeswoman Adele van der Linde told a Sapa correspondent that diseases such as cholera were among the leading causes of death, illness, and disability in the province.

"Having a healthy lifestyle is key to the prevention of water and food-borne diseases like cholera. If water is collected from a river, well, spring, or borehole, it must be boiled or bleached," she said.

She advised that fruit and vegetables be washed in sterilised water before consumption.

All meat, fish, and vegetables should be cooked well, food should be kept covered in a clean, cool place, and raw and cooked food should be stored separately.

Limpopo made headlines in November and December 2009 when cholera killed nine people and infected at least 1854 others across the province.

Mild and undiagnosed

Cholera is transmitted mainly by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with faecal matter.

Within hours, victims suffer dehydration and, if untreated, stand a 50% chance or more of dying. If patients are treated properly and in time, they have less than a 1% chance of dying.

At least 90% of cholera cases are mild and undiagnosed.

Van der Linde said while much progress had been made in the past decade to improve the surveillance and response, communicable diseases such as cholera, viral haemorrhagic fevers, malaria, severe acute respiratory illness, diarrhoeal diseases, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis remained high priorities for national public health programmes.

"While these diseases present a threat to the well-being of all communities, there are well-known interventions that are available for detecting, controlling and preventing them," she said.

Improving the availability of surveillance information, supported by laboratory confirmation when indicated, the diseases, conditions and events can be detected and investigated in time to limit their impact on affected communities, Van der Linde said.

(Picture: Cholera from Shutterstock)

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