Pretoria – “Wash your hands thoroughly with soap before handling food or after using the bathroom to prevent possible infection”.
This is the advice from the Department of Health after six people died following an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease or gastrointestinal infection, and the rising number of laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera.
The department on Saturday said: “It has been informed of cases of people presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria in the past few days, and this has led to over 50 people receiving medical care at Jubilee Hospital. Unfortunately, six patients have lost their lives”.
The department urged the public to take “extra precautionary measures” and “maintain proper hand-hygiene” following the outbreak.
The department said it was informed of people presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria in the past few days, and this has led to over 50 people receiving medical care at Jubilee Hospital.
Diarrhoeal disease is a common and often highly infectious condition that affects the stomach and intestines.
It is a leading cause of child mortality and morbidity in the world and mostly spreads by contact with an infected person or through contaminated food and drinking water sources.
Individuals generally become ill 12 – 48 hours after exposure.
Some of the common symptoms include diarrhoea, cramps, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.
The department also revealed that the number of cholera cases had risen to 22, following the detection of four more cases in Gauteng, and seven cases in Vredefort and Parys areas in the Free State.
“Members of the public are urged to avoid known or suspected contaminated food, water and surfaces, and wash hands thoroughly with soap before handling food or after using the bathroom to prevent possible infection,” said Health Departmental Spokesperson Foster Mohale.
“Never drink water from unsafe sources such as rivers, dams, streams, unless boiled or disinfected first.”
Mohale said the provincial and district outbreak response teams in both provinces have been dispatched to the affected communities to further investigate the source of the outbreaks, and intensify health education and promotion to empower the community members with health information.
“The department will keep the country informed of the developments and findings of the investigations,” said Mohale.
Meanwhile, Tshwane MMC for Health Councillor Rina Marx said she was aware of the recent increase of gastroenteritis-related cases in Hammanskraal.
Marx confirmed that the Tshwane Health Department received reports of more than 50 gastroenteritis (stomach flu) cases at the Jubilee Hospital.
The facility is managed by the Gauteng Department of Health.
“The hospital has been receiving admissions of patients from surrounding areas such as Suurman, Kanana, Majaneng and Green Field since 15 May 2023,” said Marx.
“Patients have recorded symptoms of watery diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Of concern is that 6 patient deaths have been recorded since 18 May 2023.”
Marx said the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Centre for Disease Control, Gauteng Health Department and Tshwane Outbreak Response teams were investigating the outbreak.
“Specimens taken from the affected patients are being tested including water samples,” said the MMC.
“Laboratory results confirming the cause will be made available and will be communicated in due course.
“As the MMC for Health, I want to offer my full support and assistance to the GDoH and relevant authorities in their continued investigations at the Jubilee Hospital.
“On the morning of 20 May 2023, I personally visited the hospital to appraise myself of the situation.”
She said gastroenteritis is usually spread through contact with an infected person or through contaminated food or water.
“In the interim, I want to urge community members to take the necessary precautions,” said Marx.
“It is important to maintain good hand hygiene before eating, preparing food and after going to the toilet or nappy changes. Food must be cooked thoroughly.
“Fruit and vegetables should be washed with safe, clean water.”
Gauteng MEC for Health and Wellness, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko is expected to visit Jubilee Hospital in Hammanskraal on Sunday, (21 May 2023).
For all technical enquiries, please contact the National Institute for Communicable Diseases at Media@nicd.ac.za or Sinenhlahla Jimoh on 0826099514.