SA typhoid warning after Zim outbreaks
NATIONAL and provincial health officials are on high alert with contingency plans in place since an increase in incidents of typhoid fever cases in Zimbabwe.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella Typhi, although symptoms overlap with a number of other infectious diseases also seen in the region – notably malaria.
Symptoms include fever, headaches, chills and sweats, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea, or even a skin rash with faint pink spots.
National health spokesperson Joe Maila said while officials remained alert, no cases had been reported in South Africa.
“This is an awareness drive on our part in a proactive manner, after cases of typhoid were confirmed in Zimbabwe. We are ensuring that all our people, including health workers, are on alert. Our facilities, particularly in Limpopo, as it borders Zimbabwe, are ready to respond in the event that an outbreak occurs,” said Maila.
He called on South Africans to practise good hygiene and be alert to avoid and prevent the spread of the infection.
In 2015 there were 72 cases reported in the Western Cape, 103 in 2014 and 34 cases reported for 2016.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases raised awareness following the recent increase in the number of cases reported in Zimbabwe, and warned of the increased risk of importation of cases into South Africa.
“While an outbreak of typhoid in South Africa is not anticipated, it is important that persons with symptoms suggestive of typhoid receive appropriate and early diagnosis and treatment. Typhoid is endemic in southern Africa, with seasonal increases in January and February,” the statement said.
Western Cape health spokesperson Darren Francis said health facilities and staff had been alerted to ensure procedures were in place to detect, report and investigate cases promptly.
“Typhoid is prevalent in summer and the disease is transmitted orally. People should always practise safe hygiene as typhoid can only spread in environments where human faeces or urine come into contact with food or drinking water,” said Francis.
He said there was an ongoing risk in any area where water quality and sanitation were not optimal.
“Should a suspected case be reported, tests will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.
“Contacts of the typhoid case will be followed up by public health officials to ensure the control and prevention of further cases,” said Francis.
Members of the public are advised to seek care from their local healthcare providers if they find themselves experiencing any of the symptoms.