Date: 23 November 2018 By: Jo Robinson
On 14 November, the spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Health, Neil Shikwambana, announced that an outbreak-response team had been despatched to Alldays, where a case of cholera had been confirmed.
A worker on a farm in the Alldays area, who had recently returned from a trip to Zimbabwe, went to the clinic suffering from vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Analysis of samples confirmed that the patient was infected with cholera and he was transferred to the Helen Franz hospital for treatment and recovery. So far, no further cases of cholera have been reported in Limpopo, but health services are on alert.
Cholera is an acute gastrointestinal infection caused by a water-borne bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae that, in certain conditions, can spread dramatically. Infected people lose huge amounts of fluids in very short periods of time, and if these are not replaced quickly, death can result. Symptoms include the sudden onset of nausea and vomiting, and explosive, extremely profuse watery diarrhoea.
Historically, even though cholera has been around for a very long time, only after a massive outbreak in 1854 was it discovered how the illness was transmitted. John Snow was a doctor living in Soho, England, at the time and did not agree with the general consensus that it was transferred through the air. After discovering a large number of infections happening in close proximity to a particular public water pump, he managed to arrange for its handle to be removed. When the cholera outbreak stopped directly after that, the discovery was made that the water in it had been contaminated by a baby’s cholera-infested nappy.
While one case of cholera cannot be considered an outbreak by a long way, Shikwambana has advised the public to be sure to disinfect any water that has any possibility of being infected. Wash hands and fruit and salad ingredients in water that is guaranteed not to be contaminated.
With hundreds currently dying from cholera and typhoid in countries close to our borders, the Department of Health wants the public to be aware that more cholera incidences are possible at this point, so any signs of acute diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting should be reported immediately. Cholera proliferates in unsanitary conditions, and in times of drought, the fact that cholera is water-loving does not mean that it will be weaker. When water is scarce, a cholera outbreak can happen with ease as hygiene loses precedence to hydration.
Jo joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2018 pursuing a career in journalism after many years of writing fiction and non-fiction for other sectors.