South Africa’s Department of Water & Sanitation tasks municipalities to analyze drinking water owing to typhoid concerns

SOUTH AFRICA – The Department of Water and Sanitation has tasked the various municipalities to conduct the necessary drinking water analysis in their respective areas amid reports of typhoid cases.

The department said it has been swamped with enquiries regarding the quality of drinking water in light of the increasing media reports of typhoid cases and gastro-related complaints in some parts of the country.

“Due to the widespread messages going around on various social media platforms, it is advised that this approach is taken whether gastro-related cases have been reported or not. We urge municipalities to communicate regularly with the communities that they serve to prevent misinformation being peddled on social media,” said Sputnik Ratau the Department’s spokesperson.

Ratau said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has also set out some guidelines to be followed to ensure community safety. Last week, the NICD confirmed cases of typhoid fever in the City of Cape Town, the Cape winelands and the Garden Route, as well as in North West Province.

The public has been advised to wash their hands with soap and safe water before eating or preparing food, and after using the toilet or changing a baby’s nappy.

They have also been told to follow the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) five keys to safer food: keep clean; separate raw and cooked food; cook food thoroughly; keep food at safe temperatures; and use safe water and raw materials.

In addition, they have been urged to treat the water they use for cooking and drinking by boiling it or treating it with household bleach. To treat it with bleach, they should 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.

Recent cases not linked to tap water

Meanwhile, Rand Water, the largest water utility in Africa, has noted that the recent typhoid cases reported in the news have not been linked to tap water, according to BusinessTech.

The company’s Spokesperson, Justice Mohale, assured residents that Rand Water’s drinking water treatment processes are effective in inactivating harmful bacteria. He said Rand Water maintains intensive water quality monitoring programmes.

“Escherichia coli, a bacteria that is used as an indicator for the presence of faecal pollution and disease-causing organisms such as Salmonella typhi, has not been detected in the drinking water supplied by Rand Water. Drinking water supplied by Rand Water complies with drinking water standards and is safe for human consumption,” he said.

The company is currently undertaking a programme of renewal and maintenance of its ageing infrastructure to ensure resilient and reliable water supply.

Typhoid in South Africa

South Africa is endemic for enteric fever caused by Salmonella Typhi, although the prevalence of disease is much lower than most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of reported enteric fever cases in South Africa has declined over the last few decades, and larger outbreaks have become less common. The most recent large outbreak occurred in Delmas in 2005, with over 2 900 cases.

After the Delmas outbreak in 2005, the number of enteric fever cases in South Africa has remained stable, with fewer than 150 cases per year (an average of 97 cases per year).

The top symptom of typhoid is a sustained fever (one that doesn’t come and go) that can be as high as 103–104°F (39–40°C) characterized with weakness, stomach pain, headache, diarrhea or constipation, cough and loss of appetite.

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