The Gauteng Department of Health confirmed a third case of cholera on Wednesday, but authorities say the risk of an outbreak remains low. The husband of one of the first two confirmed patients tested positive.

The department says the man displayed symptoms on Saturday and was admitted to the hospital. “The patient is in a stable condition. This follows two other cases reported on the 1st and 3rd of February in Johannesburg. The department wishes to reiterate the advice for people to visit their nearest health facilities when they present with mild to severe and watery diarrhoea and dehydration symptoms,” the statement read.

The first two cases were two sisters who travelled to Malawi to attend a funeral in January. They returned to Johannesburg by bus. 

“No need to panic”

Gauteng health department spokesperson Motalatale Modiba says the risk of an outbreak is low but reiterates the need for good hygiene. 

“The risk is higher for people who share a communal space rather than people on a bus together because when you live in the same household, you are likely to use the same utensils, bathroom and so forth. This is why it is important to prepare food properly and purify water. There is no need for the public to panic”, he says.

In a media statement on Sunday, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said cholera is not endemic to SA. The last outbreak began in 2008 and resulted in about 12 000 cases. 

“That resulted from an outbreak in Zimbabwe which led to a surge of imported cases and subsequent local transmission in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces through contaminated water”, the statement read.

Contacts being monitored

On Monday, the Gauteng Health Department reported their outbreak response teams visited the homes of the two identified cases and those of the 18 contacts. Authorities will monitor the contacts for five days as part of the standard protocol.

Cholera typically causes acute watery diarrhoea and can affect people of all ages. It mainly spreads through contaminated/polluted water. People can become infected directly through drinking contaminated water or indirectly through eating contaminated food. 

The infection is often mild or without symptoms but can sometimes be severe and life-threatening. An outbreak usually occurs in settings with inadequate sanitation and insufficient access to safe drinking water.

“The department works closely with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, World Health Organisation and National Department of Health to monitor the cases.” – Health-e News