20 March 2017

Malawi Registers New Cases of Cholera

Malawi has started registering new cases of cholera in areas bordering Mozambique, one week after the government in Malawi warned of a cholera outbreak in the neighboring country.

The disease — an acute diarrheal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium — affects children and adults, and can kill within hours if left untreated.

Malawi last registered cholera cases in 2015, but now health authorities in Malawi say they have found new cases at a health center in Nsanje district bordering Mozambique.

"So far we have 11 suspected cases, all in Ndamera health center," said Alexander Juwa, the district health officer in Nsanje. "Here we did what we call a Rapid Diagnostic Testing, and it came out positive. We have set up a treatment unit there, and nobody has died."

Juwa said they haven't confirmed whether the outbreak is a spillover from Mozambique, because none of the cholera patients had contact with anyone from there.

"When we did a follow-up of the cases, it appears communities have clean water supplies," Juwa said, "but probably we are suspecting issues to do with food preparation and food handling that might have caused the problem."

Media reports in Mozambique say cholera has infected more than 1,200 people, killing two this month.

The outbreak is believed to have been triggered by Tropical Cyclone Dineo, which hit the country last month.

In Zimbabwe, the health ministry says it has detected three suspected cases of cholera in Chipinge district, which borders Mozambique.

"The area where the cases have been reported is adjacent to the border, where there is an influx of people coming from Mozambique," said Aldrin Musiiwa, the deputy minister of health. "There are cases of cholera which have been reported in the adjacent Manica province of Mozambique."

Meanwhile, the governments of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are urging people to practice safe hygiene to prevent further spread of the disease.

Sebastian Mhofu contributed to this report from Harare.

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