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Understanding Cholera in South Africa

As there have been recent reports of a cholera outbreak in Gauteng, our patients need to be informed about cholera to prevent the disease from grabbing a foothold here. This guide aims to provide you with essential information about cholera, its causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention strategies. As a resident of South Africa, it is essential to be aware of this waterborne disease and understand the necessary steps to protect yourself and your community.

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What is Cholera?

Cholera is a potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. This bacterium is typically found in contaminated water and food, leading to the spread of the disease. Cholera outbreaks are often associated with poor sanitation and inadequate access to safe drinking water.

Causes and Transmission

Cholera is primarily transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water or food. Common causes of cholera outbreaks include using contaminated water sources, improper sewage disposal, and poor hygiene practices. Additionally, overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions can contribute to the rapid spread of the disease.

Symptoms of Cholera

The symptoms of cholera can vary in severity. They generally appear within 2 hours to 5 days after exposure to the bacterium. Some common symptoms include:

  • Profuse watery diarrhoea (often described as “rice-water” stools)
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Sunken eyes
  • Excessive thirst

Seeking Medical Assistance

If you or someone you know develops symptoms of cholera, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the chances of recovery. Contact us for proper evaluation and care.

Treatment Options

The primary goal of cholera treatment is to replace fluids and electrolytes lost through diarrhoea and vomiting. Treatment may involve:

  • Oral rehydration therapy (ORT): This involves drinking a solution containing a precise mixture of water, salt, and sugar to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Intravenous fluid replacement: In severe cases, intravenous fluids may be necessary to rapidly restore hydration and electrolyte balance.
  • Antibiotics: These may be prescribed in severe cases or to reduce the duration of symptoms.

Preventing Cholera

Prevention plays a crucial role in controlling the spread of cholera. Follow these preventive measures:

  • Drink and use only safe, clean water from reliable sources. If in doubt, boil water or use water disinfection tablets.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and clean water, especially before handling food and after using the toilet.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked seafood and other perishable foods that may be contaminated.
  • Properly dispose of human waste and maintain good sanitation practices.
  • Promote community awareness about cholera prevention through education campaigns.

Cholera Awareness and Education

To effectively combat cholera, it is vital to raise awareness within communities. Encourage local initiatives and support educational programs that teach proper hygiene practices, safe water storage, and sanitation. By empowering individuals with knowledge, we can reduce the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Cholera Hotline and Emergency Contact Information

In Cape Town, if you require immediate assistance or need to report suspected cholera cases, please refer to the following cholera hotline and emergency contact information:

  • City of Cape Town Emergency Services:

Dial: 

  • 107 (for medical emergencies) or 
  • 112 (general emergency number)
  • Provincial Department of Health – Western Cape:
  • Hotline: 0860 142 142 (24-hour toll-free line for health-related emergencies)
  • Cape Town Disaster Risk Management:
  • Contact: +27 21 597 6000 (for disaster-related emergencies and inquiries)
  • National Department of Health Emergency Hotline:
  • Toll-Free Helpline: 0800 029 999

Remember to provide accurate and detailed information when reporting suspected cholera cases to enable a swift and effective response from the authorities.

Please note that these contact numbers are provided for emergencies and suspected cholera cases specifically. For non-urgent matters or general inquiries, it is advisable to contact your healthcare provider or local healthcare facility.

Stay vigilant, practice good hygiene, and take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of cholera.