The Gauteng Department of Health has recently reported the tragic loss of seven lives due to a rampant outbreak of diarrhoeal disease, also referred to as a gastrointestinal infection, in the Hammanskraal region, in proximity to Pretoria.
This highly infectious disease is transmitted via personal contact or through the ingestion of contaminated food and water. It primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract, namely the stomach and intestines, and while it does not typically pose a serious threat to healthy individuals, it can have severe, potentially fatal, repercussions for vulnerable groups. These vulnerable groups include children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals.
In a statement, the department provided an update on the escalating situation, stating that since the previous Monday, there has been a significant influx of more than 60 patients seeking medical aid at the Jubilee Hospital. These patients were primarily presenting with symptoms such as watery diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
The department elaborated that, of this patient group, 26 individuals exhibited both diarrhoea and vomiting, 16 patients were only experiencing diarrhoea, and 10 patients were primarily vomiting. It was also noted that the majority of these patients were already showing significant signs of the infection upon their arrival at Jubilee Hospital.
In response to this outbreak, provincial and district outbreak response teams have been mobilized to the Jubilee Hospital and other affected areas to conduct further investigation into the origin of this widespread gastrointestinal infection. In line with this investigative action, stool samples have been procured from some of the infected individuals. The analysis of these samples is currently underway, and results are expected to be obtained over the upcoming weekend.
Given the severity of the situation, the department has issued a public appeal, urging citizens to exercise heightened caution during this time, particularly if they start to show symptoms of the infection.
The department stressed the paramount importance of rigorous hand hygiene, including thorough washing of hands with soap and water both before and after using the bathroom, and during the preparation or consumption of food. The use of safe or disinfected water for food preparation, beverages, and ice is also strongly recommended, in order to curtail the transmission of the infection.
Furthermore, the department urged the public to promptly seek medical attention at their nearest health facilities if they present with symptoms ranging from mild to severe watery diarrhoea and dehydration so that they can receive the necessary treatment promptly.
The onset of symptoms could occur anywhere between one to three days after exposure to the infection, and the severity of symptoms can vary. Symptoms typically subside after one to two days, but in certain cases, they may persist for up to two weeks. The department remains vigilant and continues to monitor the situation closely, promising to keep the public updated as the situation develops.