Lloyd Gumbo and Innocent Ruwende —
Harare City Council has confirmed four cases of typhoid in Mbare, as it also emerged yesterday that 2 160 suspected cases were reported countrywide this year with authorities confirming 77 cases and seven deaths as of December 18.
There are also fears that the outbreak that started in 2012 due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene could have claimed more lives that could have gone unreported because the disease is not easily diagnosed.
Harare City Council Health Services Department said laboratory tests confirmed the presence of Salmonella typhi, a life-threatening bacterial infection that causes the disease in some of the samples from Mbare.
Ivy Makwara (13) died of suspected typhoid on Christmas Day.
Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi, said so far they have discovered the presence of Salmonella typhi in three samples, while another sample showed the presence of Salmonella Group D.
“It means that we are dealing with typhoid here because it is caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. Typhoid is characterised by the sudden onset of sustained fever, severe headache, nausea, abdominal pains, loss of appetite, constipation or sometimes diarrhoea,” he said.
“A number of people are reporting to several institutions after having typhoid like symptoms following our awareness raising initiatives and they are being treated as outpatients, but the number of suspected typhoid cases still stand at 30.”
He said the city was putting a lot of effort towards addressing the environmental issues that drove typhoid.
“Our teams are still on the ground both from the Department of Water and Department of Sanitation and health promotion teams are also in the area educating people on personal hygiene and generally good eating practices so that people do not eat food from uninspected or unlicensed premises,” he said.
Recent heavy rains in Harare seem to have compounded the problem as burst sewer pipes and uncollected garbage continue to pose a health hazard in most suburbs.
Typhoid usually occurs when water supplies serving large populations are contaminated by faecal matter.
Typhoid fever is then spread by contaminated food and water or close contact with an infected person. The illness can last for several weeks and even months.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa, said poor water and sanitation were the major drivers of water-borne diseases.
Dr Parirenyatwa who toured affected areas on Wednesday, said it was important for local authorities, the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and that of Environment, Water and Climate to ensure water and sanitation were beyond reproach.
According to a Ministry of Health and Child Care weekly report ending December 18, 2016, typhoid was a major concern in various parts of the country.
“Twenty five new suspected typhoid cases and no deaths were reported this week (ending December 18, 2016),” reads the report.
“The cases were reported from Harare City (12), Mazowe district in Mashonaland Central Province (11) and Hurungwe district in Mashonaland West Province (2).
“The cumulative figures for typhoid are 2 159 suspected cases, 77 confirmed cases and 7 deaths.”
On the other hand, there were 10 suspected cases of cholera with three of them confirmed and one death reported during the same period.
Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care responsible for Epidemiology and Disease Control Dr Portia Manangazira said, the statistics were a major concern to Government.
“To us, when it comes to typhoid and cholera, one case is an outbreak,” she said.
“However, the current wave is not a new outbreak of typhoid. It started in 2012, but has continued up to now because the fundamentals that must curb it have continued unaddressed, for instance lack of water and poor quality of that water when it’s available, absence of proper sanitation and personal hygiene are still with us.
“Those are the determinants of health, but we see sewages flowing in people’s yards and flies taking that human waste to people’s food, which results in contamination.”
Dr Manangazira said it was much simpler to manage water-borne diseases as long as water, sanitation and personal hygiene were in order.
She said there was need to avail resources for the training of more health personnel so that they gain understanding of diagnosing diseases such as typhoid so that they immediately put patients on medication.
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) director, Mr Itai Rusike, said it was disheartening that some people lost lives to diseases such as typhoid and cholera, which could be treated.
“These are diseases that have been forgotten in some parts of the world. There are three fundamental public health concerns that must be looked at.
“The first one is that we need consistent supply of safe and clean drinking water, of which in Harare, people have taps in their homes, but no water.
“The second one is timeous collection of refuse by local authorities, in this case Harare City Council to ensure that residents are not exposed to these diseases. On that one, the City of Harare must also timeously fix burst sewer pipes because at the moment we have sewage flowing in some areas unabated.
“The last one is that there is need for health education and promotion on personal hygiene where they are educated about the need to boil water and use aqua tablets on tap water. There should be continuous health education particularly during the rainy season,” said Mr Rusike.