Contacts isolated after diphtheria kills inmate at Pollsmoor prison

10 November 2023 - 10:29 By Kim Swartz
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A Pollsmoor Correctional Centre prisoner died on November 5 after becoming infected with diphtheria. File photo.
A Pollsmoor Correctional Centre prisoner died on November 5 after becoming infected with diphtheria. File photo.
Image: Supplied

Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla confirmed the death of an inmate after an outbreak of diphtheria at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre in Cape Town.

The 19-year-old male showed symptoms of the potentially deadly infection caused by strains of bacteria that produce toxins on October 28 and was transferred to hospital for treatment. 

“Throat swabs were collected on the same day for culture laboratory testing and the results returned positive five days later on November 2,” the national health department confirmed.

“Unfortunately his health continued to deteriorate until he regrettably passed away on November 5.” 

Diphtheria is a contagious and potentially life-threatening bacterial infection spread through contact with respiratory droplets or hand-to-mouth contact with secretions from an infected person’s mouth, nose, throat or skin, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). 

Public health measures taken include contact tracing of inmates and correctional services staff.

“Immediate contacts of patients and the deceased have been put in isolation from the rest of the correctional centre section to prevent the disease spreading,” said the health department.

Two staff members who displayed symptoms compatible with diphtheria were treated and are awaiting lab results. 

A spokesperson for Phaahla told TimesLIVE on Friday vaccinations had been administered to other inmates. 

“Immediate measures were taken and 65 inmates were tested. Two showed mild symptoms and were treated.”

TimesLIVE previously reported two confirmed laboratory cases of diphtheria in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal  earlier this year.  

There have been no other confirmed deaths in the prison from the disease.

TimesLIVE


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