Nqobile Tshili/ Whinsley Masara/Richard Muponde, Chronicle Correspondents
BULAWAYO has not recorded any cases of cholera or typhoid with officials calling on travelling residents to practise good hygiene and desist from shaking hands at funerals, churches and other public gatherings.
Government has declared a state of emergency following a cholera outbreak that has claimed 21 lives in Harare while more that 2 300 people are suspected to have contracted the disease.
Isolated cases have also been reported in Masvingo, Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland Central provinces, all traced back to Harare as the epicentre.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday said his Government is working with international partners to contain the cholera outbreak which has killed 20 people in Harare.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said by declaring the state of emergency, the Government was targeting at quickly mobilising resources to contain the disease.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account, President Mnangagwa said his heart goes out to those infected and affected by the disease.
“My thoughts and prayers are with those suffering from the cholera outbreak, and the loved ones of those we have lost. In order to contain the outbreak and mobilise resources we have declared a state of emergency in Harare, and are working closely with our international partners,” said President Mnangagwa.
“I urge all residents of affected areas to exercise extra care with their hygiene and follow the instructions of the authorities as we seek to contain and overcome this outbreak. We are working tirelessly to control the situation and hope to communicate progress in due course.”
Meanwhile, Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the city’s tap water was safe for drinking and urged residents to practise good hygiene.
“It should be noted that cholera and typhoid are both water-borne diseases with similar modes of transmission. Undercooked food is a common source. The diseases are spread mostly by unsafe water and unsafe food that has been contaminated with human faeces containing the bacteria faeco — oral,” said Mrs Mpofu. “Residents and travellers are urged to ensure that they take care to drink from safe sources of water as well as eat well-cooked food. They are advised against buying food from unauthorised establishments.”
Mrs Mpofu said the municipality was conducting health awareness campaigns and those suspected of having contracted the water-borne disease would be quarantined at the Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital.
“To also prepare for such emergencies, the City of Bulawayo crafted an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (EPRP) which outlines the frame work of dealing with such epidemics should one arise in Bulawayo and ensures that the City is prepared for such emergencies).
“In cases of diarrhoea or suspected typhoid or cholera, patients are encouraged to visit their nearest (or preferred) health facility and all private practitioners must report any such case to the City Health Department,” she said.
Mrs Mpofu said the local authority is constantly testing and monitoring the quality of its water and urged residents to boil borehole water before drinking.
She said residents should wash their hands after using toilets and wash their fruits and vegetables before eating them.
“The City of Bulawayo also does not permit the sale of uncooked or cooked foods from vending sites. We licence informal traders and one of the licensing requirements is a Health Certificate for anyone selling foodstuffs,” Mrs Mpofu said.
Mpilo Central Hospital Clinical Director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya concurred with the council that members of the public should practice good hygiene.
He said the public should avoid some of the traditional practices such as shaking hands at funerals among other public gatherings.
“Cholera is a disease of poor hygiene and drinking contaminated water with bacteria. Since we’ve got an outbreak in Harare, members of the public should avoid engaging in unnecessary gatherings or shaking hands. They should attend to their personal hygiene by washing hands at every turn after using toilets and so forth,” said Dr Ngwenya.
“They should avoid shaking hands because cholera is easily spread at funerals, churches and weddings among other public gatherings.”
Dr Ngwenya said if a cholera case is detected, members of the public should swiftly take the suspected victim to a health institution.
“If someone contracts cholera, you immediately suffer from severe diarrhoea within 12 to 24 hours. This is characterised by rice water stools… the stools are watery like rice inside. The victim may have very high body temperature and should be rushed to hospital as soon as possible. Those caring for those victims should wear gloves as they rush them to hospital or nearest health centre where they will be quarantined,” he said.
In Matabeleland North, Provincial Medical Director Dr Alfred Muchara said no cholera case has been confirmed save for one suspected case they are monitoring in Victoria Falls.
“So far, our province is still safe from the deadly cholera outbreak with only one suspected case in Victoria Falls. The patient is still undergoing medical tests but his condition was suspected to be mere diarrhoea, otherwise it’s not something to raise alarm on,” he said. “We continue to warn the general public to practice utmost hygiene by always washing their hands after using the toilet and washing fruits and vegetables before eating them. When at gatherings, people are encouraged to ensure hygiene is practiced thoroughly and when toilets break down, if using the bucket system, please do use it constantly to keep the toilet clean at all times”.
Dr Muchara urged the public to quickly report toilet or sewer blockages as these are the biggest catalysts for an outbreak.
In Matabeleland South, the Provincial Medical Director, Dr Chipo Chikodzore, said the province was on high alert following the outbreak of the disease.
“Since the declaration of the outbreaks in Gweru and Harare, the province has been on high alert. We have strengthened weekly surveillance of diarrhoea cases in the province.
“Our health workers have been sensitised to be extra vigilant and be on high alert for cholera and typhoid. We have put in place measures to ensure our districts are able to diagnose typhoid and cholera. Medicines and commodities have been mobilised.” she said.
In another development, police have banned public gatherings in Harare as a measure to contain the spread of the disease.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday urged members of the public to comply with the directive.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police wishes to inform members of the public that in light of the declaration of the state of emergency, the police in Harare will not allow any public gatherings,” she said.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police is appealing to members of the public to take heed of this warning and co-operate as this will alleviate continuous spread of cholera.” — @nqotshili/[email protected]_masara/[email protected]