Typhoid spreads to more suburbs

THE typhoid bacterium has spread to other suburbs in the capital with four more cases being recorded this month in Budiriro and Glen View. The outbreak was first reported in Mbare.

Harare City Council’s (HCC)Health director, Prosper Chonzi, said they suspected cases had come from the same source in Mbare, where two people have succumbed to the disease.

This comes as over 25 cases have so far been confirmed with Chonzi saying they were still waiting for more results.
“We have two suspected cases in Budiriro and two others in Glen View. We were expecting this to happen as people move from Mbare to these areas and vice versa. And we are talking about a disease that has a long incubation period.  And with the movement of people, the disease spreads. That is why we are trying to spread our coverage in terms of our response,” Chonzi told the WeekendPost last week.

“So what we are saying is if you feel some discomfort in your stomach, with or without diarrhoea, fever, and headache, please report to a medical centre.

“There has also been an increase in suspected cases in Mbare but we were expecting it. I would have been worried if people were not responding to the calls. We are waiting for more results from the laboratory because the specimens are still in incubation, so we will have more results soon.”

The infectious disease is mainly transmitted through contaminated water and food and closely linked to inadequate environmental management. Interruptions to potable water supplies, together with overcrowding and bursting of sewer pipes as well as uncollected garbage aggravate factors of an outbreak.

Symptoms of typhoid include fever, poor appetite, skin rash, abdominal pains, headache, generalised body pains and diarrhoea or constipation, according to health experts.

Chonzi said the food vending ban, although it was not going to end the outbreak overnight, was meant to protect people from consuming infected food and beverages.

“People need to understand that the reason behind the food vending ban is because infection comes from eating or drinking something that is contaminated. However, we also know that the ban is not going to be a magic bullet in dealing with typhoid. Council must provide clean water, and respond to burst sewer pipes timely. Residents must also report burst sewage and exercise personal hygiene.”

In terms of treatment so far, we have enough antibiotics in stock to treat the disease. We are using Ciprofloxacin and the bug is responding well to it. We have a 24-hour centre at Mbare Polyclinic, with an ambulance on standby.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres: MSF) partnered the HCC to set up the centre, which is being manned by doctors and nurses from MSF and the city council.

The centre has been established to treat patients exhibiting symptoms of typhoid free of charge.
Following an outbreak of typhoid in Mbare, government also set up a taskforce, comprising the ministries of Health, Local Government, Environment and Small to Medium Enterprises which banned the vending of cooked and uncooked food.

Vendors, however, argued that they did not have any other source of income and are heavily resisting the move.
“It is also important for people to practice hand washing with soap and clean running water before food preparation and eating, after using the toilet, handling soiled diapers, bed linen, etc. and maintain a high standard of personal hygiene in general. We also encourage them to use treated water to avoid water contamination,” MSF emergency co-ordinator Shackman Mapuranga, said in a statement earlier. — Bridget Mananavire

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