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Sun May 29 02:09:07 CAT 2016

No typhoid outbreak in Johannesburg

Katharine Child | 24 January, 2016 13:38
Rose spots on the chest of a patient with typhoid fever due to the bacterium Salmonella typhi. Symptoms of typhoid fever may include a sustained fever as high as 103° to 104° F (39° to 40° C), weakness, stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite. In some cases, patients have a rash of flat, rose-coloured spots.
Image by: CDC

The National Institute of Communicable of Diseases has assured South Africans that there is not a typhoid outbreak in Johannesburg.

There have been four unrelated cases of typhoid over the past two weeks in Johannesburg‚ but weekend investigations found they were unrelated.

Typhoid is an infectious disease spread by contaminated food or water and is usually treatable with antibiotics. It causes a fever‚ headache‚ stomach pains and joint pains.

The Democratic Alliance's Jack Bloom said he was concerned the strain could be antibiotic resistant and that swift and effective measures were needed to contain a possible typhoid outbreak.

However‚ Deputy-Director at the institute‚ Professor Lucille Blumberg said none of the four cases was the antibiotic resistant strain.

She said the department of health in Gauteng needed to be praised for their quick response and investigation into the four cases. She said it was a little bit unusual to have that many cases in the same time period which prompted the investigation.

The outbreak response teams visited homes of patients at the weekend to investigate if the cases - in Hillbrow‚ Yeoville‚ Palm Springs and Edenvale - were linked and found out they were not.

Two of the patients‚ from the same family had just been to Zimbabwe and the third who died had returned from her home in Malawi through Mozambique.

It is believed the three cases were caught in neighbouring states.

The fourth patient has not travelled recently.

"We have activated our Outbreak Response Team‚ to trace and manage these cases and to determine if there is a common source. We wish to assure the public that we are on the alert. People must always wash their hands‚" said MEC for Health in Gauteng Ms Qedani Mahlangu.

Blumberg said: "There a few hundred cases of typhoid a year in South Africa. It is not unusual in the region. It can be serious‚ but usually responds to antibiotics.

“It is spread by contaminated food or water. Sometimes a person does not realise they have typhoid and then prepares food. This spreads the disease.

“This is why good hygiene and washing hands is important especially if preparing food."

Gauteng department of health spokesman Steve Mabona urged health workers to consider typhoid as a possible diagnosis if a patient presented with acute fever‚ headache and stomach pain.

"Health professionals are advised to test such patients for Typhoid and if not possible‚ they must be referred to institutions that are capable of conducting such tests.”

In one of the four cases‚ the patient died as typhoid had not been investigated. The doctors had suspected malaria but malaria tests returned negative.

Bloom said it was important that officials traced people with whom the patients had come into contact so that any new cases could be quickly detected.

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