Cholera outbreak kills fifteen in South Africa

Deputy Minister of Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo urged South Africans to exercise caution and maintain personal hygiene amid detection of two confirmed cholera cases in Limpopo province.

The health department noted that both cases originated from the neighboring country, Zimbabwe. The first case was confirmed in a 43-year-old man living in the Musina sub-district in the Vhembe District. He has been discharged from Musina Hospital.

"The second case is a 27-year-old man, also from Zimbabwe, who presented at Helene Franz Hospital under Capricorn District Municipality, with a history of abdominal cramps, watery diarrhea and vomiting that started on 11 January 2024," the health department said, SA News reported.

The condition of the 27-year-old patient, who travelled to Zimbabwe on December 9 and returned to South Africa on January 10, is stable now but currently kept in isolation at the hospital.

According to the department, "his contacts were identified and the local outbreak response team has been activated to conduct further investigations and provide health education to contacts."

The health department noted that South Africa is on high alert as more cholera cases could be imported from Zimbabwe, which is currently dealing with the outbreak of the disease that killed more than 200 lives so far.

In collaboration with the Border Management Authority, the department has increased the health screening at the Beitbridge border post to prevent entry of positive-tested people in to the country.

The health minister also thanked the suspected cholera patients who shared their travel history honestly with the government and allowed health officials to do their duty.

"We say to all travelers along N1 from Musina and other parts of the country, please avoid using known or suspected contaminated surfaces, especially in public places and wash hands thoroughly with soap before handling food or after using the bathroom to prevent possible infection," Dhlomo said.

The department also advised people to never drink water from unsafe sources such as rivers, dams or streams unless boiled or disinfected first.

Cholera is a diarrheal disease that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and it can lead to severe dehydration. If the disease is not treated, then it can result in death. The main cause of spreading cholera is via consumption of contaminated water or food.

Last year, a cholera outbreak caused nearly 50 deaths in the South African province of Gauteng, in the Hammanskraal area.

Following the outbreak, the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality shared that the city doesn't have potable water; however, 52 water tankers reached there three times a week, and 40 water trucks were provided daily in Region 2 to ensure that people get safe drinking water.