SOUTH AFRICA – The South African Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has urged municipalities to conduct the necessary drinking water analysis in their respective areas amid reports of Typhoid Fever cases.

The move comes after the department was overwhelmed with enquiries regarding the quality of drinking water in light of the increasing media reports of typhoid cases and gastro-related complaints in some parts of the country.

An estimated 11 million to 20 million people get sick from typhoid fever and between 128,000 to 161,000 people die from it worldwide every year.

According to the World Health Organization, urbanization and climate challenges have the potential to increase the global burden of this life-threatening infection which is usually spread through contaminated food or water.

Typhoid fever is regularly found in South Africa with case numbers rising each year.

It is spread through hand-to-mouth transmission from contaminated water, food and surfaces as well as a common mode of transmission due to poor hand hygiene by the infected person.

We urge municipalities to communicate regularly with the communities that they serve to prevent misinformation being peddled on social media,” said DWS Spokesperson Sputnik Ratau.

Ratau said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has set out guidelines to be followed to ensure community safety.

Some preventative measures were presented for the public by NICD in efforts to contain the spread of the outbreak.

Hand hygiene was advised including washing hands with soap and safe water before eating or preparing food and after using the toilet or changing a baby’s nappy,” urged the NICD.

Also, washing hands before and after caring for someone at home who is sick especially if they have diarrhea or vomiting.

Citizens were advised to follow food safety practices according to the World Health Organization’s five keys to safer food which include separating raw and cooked food, cooking food thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures and using safe water and raw materials,” advised the institute.

The institute recommended that people should treat water first by boiling or treating using household bleach if they are concerned about the quality of water they use for drinking and cooking.

They can place water in a clean container and bring to a boil for 1 minute or add 1 teaspoon of household bleach containing 5% chlorine to 20 – 25 litres of water, mix well and leave it to stand for at least 30 minutes before use,” further emphasized the NICD.

In recent developments, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced an outbreak of Typhoid fever in the Western Cape and the North West provinces.

NICD identified four cluster outbreaks of typhoid where one was in the North West and three in the Western Cape.

The Western Cape reported 14 cases in Cape Town, 11 in the Cape Winelands and 12 in the Garden Route while in the North West, 21 cases had been recorded mainly around Klerksdorp and surrounding areas.

The institute said there was no evidence that the outbreak was linked to contaminated municipal water in any part of the country as well as no evidence that the bacteria causing typhoid fever had recently been identified in municipal water sources anywhere in the country.

Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation Zahid Badroodien further said that all drinking water samples tested recently complied with the South African National Drinking Water Standard on Acute Health Determinants and posed no health risk to the public.

While concerns about poor municipal water infrastructure being at the center of the bacterial infection outbreak have been allayed, experts insist that the country’s deteriorating water and sanitation infrastructure needs to be a central focus in addressing the localized outbreak.

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