Council still to find source of diarrhoea outbreak

The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is yet to establish the source of the contamination that triggered a diarrhoea outbreak in the city which has so far claimed 13 lives and affected thousands of residents.

Presenting a report before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security on Monday the Director of Health Service, Dr Edwin Sibanda they are still investigating the source of the contamination.

Dr Sibanda told the parliamentarians that the diarrhoea outbreak in Luveve was now under control due to the availability of water and treatment. 

“13 specimen results were sent to the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory in Harare as well as Cimas laboratory locally and they were isolated in the main Shigella dysentery and salmonella typhi,” said Dr Sibanda. 

“Salmonella typhi is associated with typhoid, only one sample had that the other ones had shigella dysentery, so in the main we have dysentery being the positive symptom, so if we combine this salmonella typhi with Shigella dysentery everything fits into the gastrointestinal disease.”

He said most of the people that were affected could not seek preliminary treatment due to the severity of the shigella symptoms. 

“This outbreak, unfortunately, most of the people that were affected, the shigella symptoms are typically so severe that people can’t walk from here to the Tower Block with that kind of diarrhoea so most people would fall ill and stay at home and maybe get worse and wait for the ambulance to get them to hospital and as a result, we started getting reports that people are ill out there,” said Dr Sibanda. 

He said the diarrhoea affected more females than males and most cases were concentrated around Mafakela and Luveve Primary school. 

“We saw that most of them were less than 10 years and mainly it affected more females than the males,” he said. 

“We tried to find out what exactly was happening and the only thing that we found that was some of the wells that were dug almost close to the sewer line, and we all remember that the water had been stopped or shaded in the areas after the decommissioning of Lower Ncema.

 Our first response team went there on the 18th of May and found that there was no water to sample in the taps it was only after water engineers had intervened that sampling were then taken, we collected the water samples and on the 25th we got the results and this is where the Shigella and salmonella typhi started coming in but then people were under treatment and we had exempted people from paying fees and established treatment centres and outreach into the households. 

“When we got the shigella coming in it was at that point when we said maybe the shigella, as we know it, it stops spreading using water, it spreads through other things as we always refer to six ‘Fs’ when we are looking at diarrhoea, people’s fingers, fluids, faeces, fomites and flies coming in. 

He said the local authority will extend the waiver of exempting all residents in the city with diarrhoea from paying user fees at local authority clinics as long as water-shedding exists as a measure to curb the spread of another outbreak. 

“The thinking of the management is that we may exempt people citywide for the duration of water-shedding program least we meet another outbreak because a few people claimed that they did not go to the clinic early because they did not have any fees to pay at the clinic but other said the diarrhoea was too severe, others feared they will be tested for Covid-19 and sent to quarantine centres, “said Dr Sibanda. 

Meanwhile, Engineer Simela Dube said one of the biggest challenges in the area was the vandalised sewer system. 

“As such, there is a sewer line that requires total rehabilitation almost 1.5kilometres which requires about $1.4 million,” said Engineer Dube.

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