Walter Nyamukondiwa Chinhoyi Bureau
FOUR people have died, while three others are admitted at Chegutu District Hospital following a cholera outbreak in the town. The disease has so far claimed more than 67 lives in Zambia.
Neither the victims nor the patients had recently travelled to the neighbouring country. In an interview yesterday, Mashonaland West provincial medical director Dr Wenceslaus Nyamayaro confirmed the outbreak.
He said 18 cases involving 11 men and seven women had been recorded and attended to in the town. Three patients, including one who is in critical condition, are admitted at the district hospital.
Dr Nyamayaro said the disease was discovered after 80-year-old Laita Mungulisia of Pfupajena Township died on January 8 this year.
Three other relatives reportedly contracted the deadly disease while performing religious rituals on the body.
“An 80-year-old lady, Laita Mungulisia, who was being seen by a private physician for diabetes, hypertension and watery diarrhoea, died on the 8th of January,” he said.
“Being a Moslem, she had a washout of the intestines, this was carried out by the three men aged 47, 71 and 72.
“These men developed diarrhoea and vomiting after three days — two of them died and were buried — and the same rituals were performed without protection.”
One of the victims was admitted at Chegutu District Hospital on January 17 and died a day later.
Stool samples were sent for investigations and came out positive for the cholera bacteria.
However, bodies of the dead had already been released to relatives for burial, exposing more people to the disease.
Authorities have, however, identified poor water supplies in the town as the cause of the outbreak, as some areas are going for three to four days without water.
Residents have resorted to vandalising pipes to access treated water.
“There is critical shortage of potable water and there is leakage of sewer pipes.
“People sometimes go for three to four days without water,” Dr Nyamayaro said.
“People are vandalising underground water pipes and this results in suctioning of sewerage waste into the water system when there is no water.”
He said control of the outbreak will be difficult without the issue of reliable water supplies being addressed.
Chegutu suffered its worst cholera outbreak in 2009 when about 200 cases were recorded, leading to the death of at least 30 people.
Investigations by The Herald, however, indicated that those currently affected by the disease never travelled outside Chegutu.
The town’s health authorities are now investigating the source of the outbreak.
The outbreak comes when Government has stepped up cholera control in Kariba and Chirundu border towns in order to forestall transmissions from travellers to Zambia.
At least 3 000 people have been treated for cholera in Zambia.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa recently said Zimbabwe was on high alert and had since reactivated its emergency response teams to deal with any case that might arise.
He said Government had also stepped up awareness campaigns, particularly on buses leaving Harare for Zambia and Malawi.
Malawi has recorded cases of cholera in Lilongwe.
Meanwhile, Chegutu West House of Assembly member Cde Dexter Nduna has urged Government to come up with concrete steps to address perennial water shortages in the town.