Joburg has cholera under control

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Johannesburg - Measures have been put in place by the City of Johannesburg for early detection and prompt response to prevent the spread of cholera in the area.

No new cases of cholera have been reported, but Joburg's Health Department is still urging residents to practise proper hygiene.

The first reported case of cholera in Johannesburg was on 18 November 2008. Since then, 117 clinically suspected cholera cases have been reported, but just 25 have had laboratory confirmation, reports

Nkosinathi Nkabinde, the provincial Health Department's spokesperson, said the city had a surveillance system in place for early detection of the disease.

"The surveillance system involves ongoing testing of water, rivers and streams in the city, and telephonic notification of all cases by health professionals. All cases are investigated to determine the source of infection."

Ongoing education campaigns have also been conducted since the festive season and pamphlets have been distributed.

To prevent contracting cholera, Ms Nkabinde advised people to drink safe water only. "If your water source is from rivers or streams, it should be purified before it is used."

Water can be purified by adding a single teaspoon of bleach to 25 litres of water; the bleached water must be left to stand for three hours or overnight.

The water can also be boiled. Hygienic practices such as washing hands before preparing or eating food and after going to the toilet should always be enforced.

Cholera can be asymptomatic; however, in its severe form it can cause chronic diarrhoea that can result in dehydration and even death.

Those who have contracted the disease should drink a rehydration mixture made of eight teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt mixed with one litre of purified water.

"The sick person should drink as much as possible until the nearest clinic or hospital is reached," Ms Nkabinde said.

According to Motshidisi Manzini, the assistant director of water quality management, the pressure on the city's water resources is high as the city is home to approximately 3.8 million people, with some of these residing in less than adequate settlements.

"Incidents of water pollution are mainly due to poor storm water drainage systems, sewer leaks, inadequate sanitation, effluent discharge, mining, litter and silt loads are frequent."

The most problematic areas include Alexandra, Diepsloot and Soweto, where the total E.coli content of the surface waters is indicated as bad.

E.coli is the common name for Escherichia coli, a bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of mammals. It can survive outside a body for brief periods, making it an indicator to test environmental samples for fecal contamination.

"In response to the quality challenges the city has been routinely collecting water samples in streams and rivers since 2001 in an effort to protect the water resources in areas within its jurisdiction," said Ms Manzini.

Water quality data used in this trend analysis included a variety of conventional parameters such as turbidity, total dissolved solids, Ph, conductivity, and nutrients.

She explained that only data from sites that were currently active and had been monitored for at least five years were included in this trend analysis.

"The city, together with the Surface Water Quality Programme, have been recognised as an important water management tool which gives early warning of problem areas or health risks, highlights hot spot areas where action needs to be taken and measures the impact, progress and ongoing success of remedial actions or rehabilitation measures implemented."