SA gets clean bill on cholera

Zinhle Mapumulo, Frank Maponya and Alfred Moselakgomo

Zinhle Mapumulo, Frank Maponya and Alfred Moselakgomo

South Africa is under no threat of a cholera outbreak - for now.

This despite the alarming increase in new cases and deaths reported countrywide.

Doctors Without Borders, who have been working with the government in the fight against cholera, believe the disease has been contained so far.

"It is unlikely that South Africa will have a cholera outbreak. What we are witnessing is a cross-border outbreak in which patients have already contracted the disease in Zimbabwe. And so far the country is managing well," said Rachel Cohen, head of mission at DWB.

While Cohen was optimistic that the country is not facing a cholera crisis, shocking statistics were revealed by Mpumalanga on the disease on Monday.

The provincial health department reported that 19 people had died of cholera since December last year. This brought the number of people killed by the water-borne disease in South Africa to 34.

Cohen said the reason why cholera deaths keep on rising daily could be because of late diagnosis and treatment.

At present more than 3 000 people have been diagnosed with cholera in South Africa since the cross-border outbreak in November. Limpopo remains the hardest hit, recording over 2 550 cases. Mpumalanga reported 49 confirmed and 642 suspected cases with the highest number of deaths. Gauteng also recorded 189 cases.

Mpumalanga health MEC Fish Mahlalela said on Monday that there were 16 deaths in Bushbuckridge's Matikwane Hospital, two in Mapulaneng Hospital and one in Mmametlhake Hospital.

Unconfirmed reports of 34 people who died of cholera in Sekhukhune and GaMampuru in Limpopo last week also surfaced on Monday.

But the provincial department of health and social development rejected the reports.

The cross-border cholera outbreak was first identified in South Africa in mid-November last year. This was after patients from Zimbabwe flocked to Musina in Limpopo seeking medical attention.

World Health Organisation statistics estimates that more than 40 000 people have been infected with cholera in Zimbabwe and more than 2 100 have died.