09 December 2008

Limpopo: cholera monitored

More tests are to be conducted on cholera contamination in the Limpopo River and the possible spread of the disease, the water affairs department said on Monday.

More tests are to be conducted on cholera contamination in the Limpopo River and the possible spread of the disease, the water affairs department said on Monday.

Drinking water quality regulations manager Leonardo Manus said Mozambican officials had queried whether there could be contamination in the parts of the river which flowed into their country.

"We are fairly certain it has not reached Mozambique yet," he said.

Manus said the department planned to fly over the Limpopo river and take samples at all sections which were flowing to see how far cholera contamination could have spread.

He said this testing should take place at some stage between Wednesday and Friday. By Saturday a report would be given to Mozambique.

Manus said, however, that the department did not think the cholera contamination was spreading beyond the border area around Musina.

Cholera from sewerage in Beitbridge
He said the cholera bacteria, identified in that part of the river last week, was known to be flowing from a Zimbabwean untreated sewerage works in Beitbridge.

He also said that the Limpopo river itself was not flowing in all parts, which curtailed the chance of the cholera bacteria from spreading.

In particular, he said, currently in Beitbridge and Musina the river was not flowing. There was some chance that there could be sub-surface flows which might pass on the cholera bacteria, but further testing could indicate if this was the case or not.

SA waterworks assistance
Manus said the water affairs department had sent technicians to the area where the sewerage works was located to assist the Zimbabwean water authorities.

Tankers to provide clean water and chemicals to treat drinking water, which Zimbabwe had run out of, had been supplied.

It had also been suggested that a temporary buffer dam be put up to stop the flow into the river, although Manus could not confirm if this recommendation had been followed through.

Manus said other test results checking for cholera in the upper part of the Nwanedzi River and Limpopo river as well as a reservoir in Musina were out on Monday.

There were some contradictions in the results and scientists were meeting on Monday afternoon to clarify these. It was unlikely that the results which came out on Monday would find the part of the Limpopo river flowing through Musina clear of cholera contamination.

"A negative result is likely in the next few weeks, not now," he said.

Other SA water sources safe
Water Affairs department spokeswoman Linda Page said there was no need to test for the presence of cholera bacteria in other South African water sources at the moment.

Also on Monday, the Limpopo health department said the number of cholera cases continued to increase in the province over the weekend.

Spokesman Phuti Seloba said the number of cases reported in the province since mid-November now stood at 633. On Friday, this number was 515.

Eight people have died of the illness in the province in the same time period. Seloba said there were currently 57 people in hospital. He said the number of people crossing the border to seek treatment continued to fluctuate, making it difficult to estimate how many more people might come into the country to seek treatment.

"We are not in charge. The cholera is not in South Africa. The breakout is in Zimbabwe. We don't know how many may decide to come," said Seloba.

"We believe we are coping. It's a problem of Zimbabwean authorities. Cholera is a waterborne disease. People are drinking water that is not treated."

He said once Zimbabwe implemented the management of water services, "we don't anticipate any problems".

Last week, Mozambique reported 278 cases of cholera, including nine deaths. Botswana has reported two cases.

The Zimbabwe government and United Nations figures released last week showed that more than 560 deaths and 12 500 cases of cholera had been recorded in Zimbabwe since August. – (Sapa)

Read more:
Limpopo River positive for cholera
National health emergency in Zim

December 2008


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