January 9, 2003

East Cape cholera under control

The Eastern Cape health department says the cholera outbreak that emerged late December in the province and claimed eight lives over the last weekend, is under control.

About 76 infected people are being treated at Umtata General Hospital and many others are receiving preventive treatment at makeshift clinics, built as part of measures to immediately curb the spread of the infectious disease.

According to health MEC Bevan Goqwana's spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo, 'there is no scare' in the province and stakeholders such as the OR Tambo Municipality and health workers are working around the clock to deal with the situation. 'We have dispatched nurses on the ground to attend to villages where it has been discovered, sent health teams for water purification and testing, and are also using helicopters to distribute preventive medicine,' Mr Kupelo told BuaNews this morning.

Affected areas include Baziya, Caguba and Buhlungwini villages - all under the control of the OR Tambo Municipality. The municipality has received R1-million from the provincial government for the management of the outbreak. On Wednesday, the national water affairs and forestry department also announced it had approved a R30-million business plan submitted by the municipality for water and sanitation provision.

Mr Kupelo said it was suspected that the carriers of cholera were some tourists who passed it on to the locals, explaining that there was no river linking the affected areas. However, he added that the lack of toilets in most parts had not helped the situation.

Cholera is a bacterial infection, which is contracted by drinking contaminated water or by eating food, which has been in contact with contaminated water, flies or soiled hands. To prevent cholera, people are advised to drink only purified or treated water (boiled or by adding one teaspoon of bleach to 25 litres of water and allowing it to stand for a minimum of two hours) and practice good personal and environmental hygiene. The germs responsible for cholera are found in human excretion. Water becomes contaminated when people defecate into water or too close to water and then rain-washes the faeces into water, thus contaminating it. (BuaNews, Pretoria / SAPA, Johannesburg)

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