/ 6 February 2023

Two cases of cholera reported in South Africa

Gettyimages 911307844
TOPSHOT - A medical personnel stands in front of a ward of a Cholera Treatment Centre, funded by the Unicef, Malawi Red Cross and UK Aid, at Bwaila Hospital in the capital Lilongwe, Malawi, January 25, 2018. Malawi has been facing a cholera outbreak since late 2017 and UNICEF Malawi is making efforts to contain the outbreak. / AFP PHOTO / AMOS GUMULIRA (Photo credit should read AMOS GUMULIRA/AFP via Getty Images)

South Africa has recorded cholera cases from two sisters who travelled to Malawi, where an outbreak has claimed hundreds of lives.

The country’s health authorities confirmed that both patients developed symptoms upon their return to Johannesburg.

The health department has called for vigilance, urging people to observe proper hygiene such as washing hands with soap and water before and after using the toilet and before preparing or eating food.

Department of health spokesperson Foster Mohale said one of the sisters had gone to a clinic and was then admitted to hospital.

“A close contact [household family member] of one of the patients was admitted to hospital on 4 February with diarrhoea and dehydration and is considered a possible case,” the health department said.

The health department said laboratory test results are pending and follow-up of close contacts to the sisters is ongoing.

Cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, and outbreaks usually occur in places with inadequate sanitation and safe drinking water.

Symptoms range from mild to severe and watery diarrhoea and dehydration.

“The department is working closely with the affected province [Gauteng], the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and World Health Organisation to monitor the situation,” said Mohale.

Malawi, which recorded a cholera outbreak last year, has so far lost more than 1 000 people to the disease.

The health department said South Africa had its last cholera outbreak more than a decade ago with about 12 000 cases, following an outbreak in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

The department said that the health officials at the ports of entry, especially land and air, will remain on high alert for travellers arriving from countries experiencing cholera outbreak.