THE Harare City Council’s health department has issued a typhoid alert as the number of confirmed cases has increased from six early this month to 13 this week.
Typhoid cases were first reported in Glen Norah, Hopley and Hatfield because of food being prepared in unhygienic conditions and have since spread to other suburbs namely Kambuzuma and Budiriro.
Harare city health director, Propser Chonzi told the Financial Gazette that while the cases were still going up, they would soon get the situation under control.
He urged residents to continue basic hygiene practices such as washing hands before meals and treating water at the point of use.
“Residents should continue boiling water, treating water with aqua tablets and practicing personal hygiene. We also urge the Harare City Council to provide adequate water to all residents and take care of burst sewers and uncollected garbage,” Chonzi said.
“For now, as long as the local authority can provide water and sanitation services we can deal with the confirmed and suspected cases.”
According to the World Health Organisation, typhoid usually occurs where water supplies serving large populations are contaminated by faecal matter.
Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food and water or close contact with an infected person.
The disease is characterised by the sudden onset of sustained fever, severe headache, nausea, abdominal pains, loss of appetite, constipation or sometimes diarrhoea.
The illness can last for several weeks and even months.
Recent heavy rains in Harare have compounded the problem as burst sewer pipes and uncollected garbage flows in suburbs.
Council has also been battling to purify highly polluted water from Lake Chivero, its major source of raw water.
More than 50 cases of the disease in an area would constitute an outbreak, and city health officials are working to avoid an outbreak.
“With typhoid, if the numbers are to go up to 50 confirmed cases then it should be considered an outbreak. For suspected cases the numbers should go up to 100, but it all depends on our capacity to handle the situation,” Chonzi said.
The capital has become a soft target for water-borne diseases because of erratic water supplies, poor hygienic practices and inadequate sanitation.
Water shortages have made it difficult for residents to maintain hygienic conditions in their homes and communities, with many of them digging shallow and unprotected wells in their backyards.
A deadly typhoid outbreak hit Harare in 2011, with most of the infections occurring in Dzivarasekwa, where untreated sewage perpetually flows in the streets, creating ideal conditions for the disease to flourish and spread.
Typhoid cases started rising again in 2012 with statistics showing 6 843 suspected cases in Harare that year.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette