24 November 2008

Cholera: trucker's brother OK

The brother of a Zimbabwean truck driver who died of cholera over the weekend "is shopping in Durban", KwaZulu-Natal health department spokesman Chris Maxon said on Monday.

The brother of a Zimbabwean truck driver who died of cholera over the weekend "is shopping in Durban", KwaZulu-Natal health department spokesman Chris Maxon said on Monday.

"The brother is fine. He was never admitted into hospital and has no cholera. He is shopping in Durban as we speak," he said.

Last week the health department confirmed that the truck driver had contracted the water-borne infection. He died on Saturday night, hours after the department said he was improving.

At the time, another health spokesman Leon Mbangwa said the trucker had been placed in an isolation ward in Durban's Addington Hospital, and that there were no new cases of cholera. The man had left Zimbabwe with his brother and the two checked into a local Durban lodge last week Saturday.

By that evening the man was vomiting and had diarrhoea. He was first admitted to City Hospital before being transferred to Addington Hospital in what Mbangwa at the time described as "a semi-coma condition". The department told reporters his brother was also under observation, but had not shown any symptoms.

Call for clarity on issue
Health officials said they had tracked down all the people the man had been in contact with since his arrival in Durban. The lodge where the two men had stayed had been decontaminated.

Maxon, however, on Monday told Sapa the brother was never admitted to hospital.

Democratic Alliance health spokesman Mike Waters said: "This is very serious. The department needs to explain itself because they are contradicting themselves. First they say he was in hospital for observation, and now they say he's shopping and was never admitted into hospital."

He said people wanted to know if the brother was examined. "We don't want an outbreak of cholera here like in Zimbabwe. We also don't want to create panic in the general population, so the department needs to provide the facts," said Waters.

Spokesman for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, Sizwe Tamla said the government was not doing enough to educate the public about cholera. If the government continued down this path, the disease would spread throughout South Africa.

'Not enough is being done'
"Cholera is an easily preventable disease, but people don't know what to do. And our health members are at the forefront which means they are exposed to cholera-diagnosed patients. We feel the government has failed to react in time. They failed to put measures in place and they need to educate the general public on the prevention of cholera," he said.

Cleanliness in facilities including hospitals, he said, was crucial for prevention and was not in place at immigration camps. "Not enough is being done and we are worried. The conditions our health workers are working under is not acceptable," said Tamla.

Cholera has claimed the lives of nearly 300 people in Zimbabwe. On its website, the health department lists things that can be done to prevent contracting cholera. These include using only treated or boiled water; washing all raw food with clean, treated or boiled water; washing hands before eating or handling food; washing food utensils; protecting food from fly contamination; using proper toilet facilities; not allowing children to play in dirty pools, and not leaving sewage where it could be washed into rivers by rain. – (Sapa, November 2008)

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