Experts have warned healthcare workers not to wait for laboratory diagnoses, and to treat all diarrhoea cases as suspected cholera until proven otherwise.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, the Head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Dr Juno Thomas, said the hallmark of cholera is acute watery diarrhoea. Most patients may vomit, while fever is mostly absent.

“This is defined as diarrhoea lasting less than seven days, which is typically watery, non-bloody liquid stools that may contain a bit of mucous,” she explained, adding that diarrhoea is three or more stools within 24 hours.

Seventeen people, including two children, have died due to cholera-related complications in Hammanskraal.

The Gauteng Department of Health said 165 patients have been seen at Jubilee District Hospital, including 18 that have been transferred to other health facilities in Tshwane.

According to the latest update, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera in Gauteng stands at 29, while the Free State has reported six cases.

Look out for signs of dehydration

Dr Jeremy Nel, Infectious Diseases Division at Wits University, also emphasised that one does not have to wait for confirmation, before potentially treating patients for cholera as most cases are asymptomatic or mild.

“Mild cholera cannot be easily distinguished from other diarrhoea illnesses. While severe cholera is usually profuse, painless diarrhoea, the main thing here is that dehydration can be rapid and fatal. And it is very uncommon for adults to have severe dehydration from diarrhoea, if you do you must always think of cholera,” says Nel.– Health-e News.