With more than 50 cases of typhoid fever reported last week, South Africans must be wondering whether they are simply suffering from a tummy bug or typhoid fever.
Typhoid fever or enteric fever is regularly found in South Africa, with case numbers rising each year. It is spread through hand-to-mouth transmission from contaminated water, food, and surfaces. Poor hand hygiene by the infected person is also a common mode of transmission.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Thursday that if you are concerned about the quality of water you are using for drinking and cooking, then it is recommended to treat the water first.
“There are numerous social media posts with false information about enteric fever in South Africa that are attracting widespread attention and causing needless concern and panic at the moment.”
But the NICD did make it VERY clear that there is no evidence that recent cases of enteric fever are linked to contaminated municipal water in any part of the country, and there is no evidence that the bacteria causing typhoid fever have recently been identified in municipal water sources anywhere in the country.
This comes after NICD announced a typhoid fever outbreak in the Western Cape and the North West last week. The NICD said it had identified four cluster outbreaks of typhoid – one in the North West and three in the Western Cape.
As of Sunday in the Western Cape, 14 cases were reported in Cape Town, 11 in the Cape Winelands, and 12 in the Garden Route. While in the North West, 21 cases had been recorded, mainly around Klerksdorp and surrounding areas.
By Friday, no update on the number of cases was available yet.
Common typhoid fever symptoms are similar to those of a patient with acute gastroenteritis or even a stomach bug.
These symptoms include:
Remember that you can protect yourself and your family from enteric fever and many other infections by following these important preventive measures:
Hand hygiene. Wash hands with soap and safe water:
Follow the World Health Organization’s five keys to safer food:
Washing hands with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating is especially important.
Using safe water. When there is concern about the quality of water you are using for drinking and cooking, then it is recommended to treat the water.
First, boil it (place water in a clean container and bring to a boil for 1 minute) or treating it with household bleach (add 1 teaspoon of household bleach (containing 5% chlorine) to 20-25 litres of water, mix well, and leave it to stand for at least 30 minutes before use).