24 November 2011

Zimbabwe: 500 Typhoid Cases Reported

Photo: IRIN
Residents of Kuwadzana in Harare walk past raw sewage.

SUSPECTED cases of life threatening typhoid in Harare have risen to more than 500 from about 100 cases a fortnight ago as officials battle to contain the disease.

Harare health officials said they were attending to patients with heavy watery diahorrea, the majority of whom were suspected to be infected with typhoid.

The majority of the cases were reported in Dzivarasekwa and Kuwadzana suburbs, but there are fears the disease could spread to other areas if it remains unchecked.

City spokesperson, Mr Leslie Gwindi, yesterday confirmed at a press briefing that there had been an "increase in patients indicating typhoid symptoms".

"We have over 500 people now being treated of watery diahorrea who could be carrying the typhoid bacteria," he said.

Mr Gwindi said doctors were screening the reported cases to establish the actual number of the infected.

But sources indicated that city officials could be suppressing figures for fear of a Government and public backlash.

Mr Gwindi said the major challenge precipitating the increase in typhoid cases was the use of unclean water sources owing to the city's inability to provide enough water.

Harare is failing to meet demand, forcing residents to drink water from shallow makeshift wells and dugouts in marshlands.

"The majority of these cases are because of unsanitary conditions, flies, dirty water from shallow wells and boreholes sunk on places that were not recommended," said Mr Gwindi.

He said practical solutions such as the speedy construction of Kunzvi Dam should be prioritised to dissuade residents from using water from unsafe sources.

Mr Gwindi said the city prioritised refuse collection as one of the major activities that would help reduce the incidence of the watery diahorrea cases and typhoid.

He said partners such as United Nations agencies and the Red Cross were helping the city to contain the typhoid outbreak.

When asked why the city was disconnecting water supplies to non-paying residents in the advent of typhoid, Mr Gwindi said residents should pay up to allow the city to supply them with clean water.

"If we continue supplying them with water without them paying for the service we will end up not being able to provide the water," he said.

Typhoid is caused by bacterium salmonella typhi.

A cholera outbreak in 2008/2009 was blamed on the collapse of water supply system, poor sanitation and failure to institute preventive measures. Cholera killed more than 4 000 people countrywide.

Mr Gwindi announced that council had begun processing business shop licences for 2012 to avoid congestion when the new year begins.

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