/ 6 July 2023

Health department reports decrease in cholera cases

Tap Water
Although most South Africans still consider their tap water safe to drink, their confidence in water services is waning

The department of health has reported a decline in cholera cases across the country after only one cholera-positive case was confirmed in Gauteng out of 28 suspected cases in the past 10 days.

But the department has cautioned the public to remain vigilant and practise good hygiene after 47 deaths were recorded from the outbreak.

“This doesn’t mean the transmission of cholera is over, and members of the public are urged to remain vigilant and exercise personal hygiene at all times, especially when preparing and serving food during mass gatherings.”

The warning comes after the country recorded 1 073 suspected cholera cases in five provinces, of which 198 cases were laboratory confirmed from 1 February to 4 July.

Ferrial Adam, of OUTA’s Water Community Action Network (WaterCAN)said the government still needed to improve water and sanitation infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks. “Even if the numbers are going down, the levels of pollution and sewage pollution in our rivers and streams, which people are dependent on, is unacceptable.”

South Africa recorded its first three cases of cholera in February after two sisters from Diepsloot in Johannesburg travelled to Malawi by bus in January. The husband of one of the women tested positive for cholera after developing symptoms.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has since said that “subsequent cases acquired infection locally and are classified as indigenous cases”. 

Gauteng is leading with 176 confirmed cholera cases, mostly from Hammanskraal, which falls under the City of Tshwane.

“My ward is doing good, there are no cases. The government has been supplying water tankers, so there is no fear,” said Hammanskraal ward councillor Adam Mashapa.

But councillor Dimakatso Moloisane of ward 32 in Johannesburg North, said: “There is still fear from the residents because of the ongoing water outages.”

The Free State has reported 11 cases, North West with six cases, Limpopo four cases and one in Mpumalanga.

In a statement, the department said it would continue working with its stakeholders to prevent new infections “mainly through health education and targeted case finding activities”. 

Cholera is a bacterial disease that spreads mostly through ingesting contaminated food and water, which causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration and in extreme cases, death, according to the NICD.