The North West department of health was on high alert following the deaths of two people and the hospitalisation of 19 others in what is suspected to be cholera, it said on Tuesday.
The 21 people were admitted to Brits hospital suffering from severe diarrhoea between Saturday and Monday, said Dr Andrew Robinson, the department's deputy director general.
"Two of the patients died from hypovolaemic shock and renal failure. We are still waiting for results (to confirm if it was indeed cholera)," Robinson said. He said another person was being treated at the Mafikeng provincial hospital. The Mafikeng patient had been confirmed as suffering from cholera but Robinson said the patient was doing well.
Results within 48 hours
Results for those admitted at Brits, as well as the man and woman who had since died would be available within the next 48 hours, Robinson said.
An outbreak response team had been dispatched to informal settlements on farms about 30km from Brits to assess the situation and initiate remedial actions. If the latest cases were confirmed as cholera, this would bring the number of cholera cases reported in the province to 35.
Fourteen cases had been confirmed in the province since the outbreak in November last year.
The department had as a result urged people to take precautionary measures by washing hands with soap and water every time they used the toilet, after changing baby nappies and when preparing food.
"Those using untreated water and anyone at risk is advised to purify their water with a teaspoon of household bleach to a five litre bottle of water, or to mix a cup full of household bleach with 20 to 25 litres of water and leave to stand for at least two hours or overnight before consumption," departmental spokesman Ngwako Motsieng said.
He urged those suffering from diarrhoea to visit their nearest hospitals. – (Sapa, March 2009)
Cholera kills 59 in SA