Vac­cines: Govt in race to beat the rains

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Rumbidzai Mu­parutsa

GOV­ERN­MENT is in the process of ac­quir­ing cholera and ty­phoid vac­cines that are ex­pected to be ad­min­is­tered in high-risk ar­eas and in­for­mal set­tle­ments be­fore the rainy sea­son, it has been es­tab­lished.

The vac­cines give pro­tec­tion for three to four years.

How­ever, they can­not be ad­min­is­tered to chil­dren who are less than a year old.

It is be­lieved that cholera and ty­phoid-caus­ing bac­te­ria (vib­rio chol­arae and sal­monella ty­phi, re­spec­tively) usu­ally flour­ish dur­ing the rainy sea­son.

Health of­fi­cials have since es­tab­lished that the new strains of the wa­ter-borne dis­eases seem to be re­sis­tant to the first line of an­tibi­otics (ciprofloxacin and cef­tri­ax­one).

A sec­ond-line an­tibi­otic, azithromycin, is cur­rently be­ing used.

Di­rec­tor of epi­demi­ol­ogy and dis­ease con­trol in the Min­istry of Health and Child Care, Dr Por­tia Manangazira told The Sun­day Mail last week that the ex­er­cise will not only tar­get ar­eas that ex­pe­ri­enced re­cent out­breaks, but will be ex­tended to in­for­mal set­tle­ments in high-risk ar­eas.

“We are now ad­dress­ing the is­sue with vac­ci­na­tion as we have noted that per­sons with cholera are now re­sis­tant to the an­tibi­otic we are us­ing,” said Dr Manangazira.

“We are plan­ning to vac­ci­nate be­fore Oc­to­ber to ad­dress the out­break in four sub­urbs that have been hit by the out­break the most. These are Glen View, Budiriro, Glen No­rah and Mbare.

Gov­ern­ment is also con­sid­er­ing cover­ing Chi­tung­wiza and Ep­worth.

“And then some­time in Oc­to­ber, we are go­ing to vac­ci­nate for ty­phoid; that way we can pre­serve the an­tibi­otic and dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the out­break of the dis­ease,” she said.

Dr Manangazira said it is pru­dent to take the pre-emp­tive step and vac­ci­nate peo­ple in the high-risk ar­eas.

“These two dis­eases have dif­fer­ent man­i­fes­ta­tions. Cholera is easy to di­ag­nose but for ty­phoid, it is very dif­fi­cult as it can af­fect any part of the body.

“It can af­fect your skin or eyes. Some peo­ple have been rushed to the­atre be­cause the bac­te­ria would have gone through the bowel lin­ing, cre­at­ing bowel per­fo­ra­tion. Some peo­ple have had kid­ney fail­ure and end up at dial­y­sis, only to re­alise that it is ty­phoid; some get menin­gi­tis.

“That is why pre­ven­tion is bet­ter than cure be­cause 80 per­cent of the time, the stan­dard pro­ce­dure is to drill to the bone and that is very ex­pen­sive. The dis­ease af­fects the pa­tient all the way to the bone mar­row. Only a few peo­ple can do that in Zim­babwe.”

There is need, she added, for peo­ple to be wary of other dis­eases as con­tam­i­nated wa­ter is likely to make peo­ple sus­cep­ti­ble to other ail­ments.

While Gov­ern­ment has taken the de­ci­sion to roll out vac­cines, there is, how­ever, no sub­sti­tute for potable wa­ter, she noted.

“We will be de­ploy­ing the vac­cines, but not as a re­place­ment for safe wa­ter. There is no re­place­ment for safe wa­ter, we vac­ci­nate for cholera, then two or three weeks af­ter that, we vac­ci­nate for ty­phoid, then cholera again be­fore the rainy sea­son.”

Of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics show that of the cholera cases re­ported so far, 21 per­cent are chil­dren un­der the age of five. Health of­fi­cials are presently wor­ried that peo­ple in high-risk ar­eas are also in dan­ger of co-in­fec­tions, which are dif­fi­cult to di­ag­nose and treat.

Deputy di­rec­tor of epi­demi­ol­ogy and dis­ease con­trol, Dr Isaac Phiri in­di­cated last week that ty­phoid and cholera are spawned by sim­i­lar con­di­tions.

“We sus­pect co-in­fec­tion be­cause there were three bac­te­ria found in the wa­ter, namely E coli, sal­monella ty­phi and vib­rio chol­arae, so peo­ple could con­tract both and that will cause com­pli­ca­tions.

“We ac­tu­ally call them Si­amese twins be­cause where we find one, we find the other; the con­di­tions that brew one also brew the other,” he said.

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