Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Government has activated the national response mechanism to combat the dual outbreaks of cholera and typhoid in the country, amid revelations that both outbreaks were spreading to other parts of the country.
The national response taskforce, which started its deliberations to curb further spreading of the dual outbreak of the diseases in Harare yesterday, comprise of representatives from the Ministries of Health and Child Care, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Defence and War Veterans and the Department of Civil Protection, local authorities and other inter-agency representatives.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care is coordinating the national response, while the City of Harare’s health department is coordinating on the outbreak in Harare.
Chitungwiza, Midlands, Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland Central provinces have since reported sporadic cases of cholera — all of which have since been traced back to Harare.
In Midlands, five cases were reported in Gokwe North — all involving members of one family, — while in Manicaland two cases were reported in Mutasa district.
In Harare, 16 people have so far died of cholera, while 1 007 others were treated of suspected cholera since the disease was detected on Monday last week.
Speaking after the taskforce meeting, Health and Child Care secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji said local authorities should ensure availability of safe and adequate portable water because at this time of the year, the country normally experiences water shortages from other sources such as boreholes and dams owing to the depletion of the water table.
He said in light of the challenges, residents should practice good environmental and personal hygiene to avoid further spreading of cholera and typhoid.
“Members of the public must really firm up on ensuring all drinking water has been rendered safe by either boiling or chlorination with either water guard, aqua tablets or household jik,” said Dr Gwinji. “We also urge the public to avoid consuming food prepared in unlicensed premises.
“They must also avoid open urination and defecation, and use toilets for both urine and stools to curb the spread of both typhoid and cholera,” he said.
Dr Gwinji said Government was worried about the number of cholera deaths recorded in Harare so far, especially considering that Harare was an urban setting, where patients were close to amenities.
“We regret this loss of life and urge all those that are unwell with suspected cholera to present early to their nearest clinic or treatment centre in Glen View or Budiriro,” he said. “They should also prepare and drink salt and sugar solution or oral rehydration salts even as they prepare and are on their way to the treatment facility to avoid dehydration.”
Dr Gwinji said death from cholera was normally from extreme dehydration caused by the severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Additionally, when handling sick or deceased relatives, use gloves and disinfect their clothes, vomit or stool first before touching or cleaning, and afterwards wash hands thoroughly with soap,” he said.
“If not sure get help from the community health worker or clinic staff.” Epidemiology and disease control director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Portia Manangazira said public health experts were suspecting that the high deaths could have been triggered by underlying resistant typhoid since the areas affected were also the same areas where cases of resistant typhoid were recorded.