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Two cholera cases reported in South Africa

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The Department of Health has reported two laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera, with Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, calling for vigilance.

In a statement on Sunday, he said the cases were two sisters who had travelled from Johannesburg to Malawi to attend a funeral service, returning by bus on 30 January.

“Both patients had developed symptoms on their return to Johannesburg. One patient presented to a local clinic and was then admitted to a hospital,” he said.

Dr Paahla said it was subsequently established that the sister reported that she also developed diarrhoea on the journey back from Malawi, but it resolved within a day and she did not seek health care.

He said a family member of one of the patients was admitted to a hospital on 4 February with diarrhoea and dehydration and is considered a possible case.

“Laboratory test results are pending and follow-up of close contacts is ongoing,” Dr Paahla said.

He said South Africa is not endemic for cholera, and the last outbreak was in 2008/9 with about 12 000 cases that resulted from an outbreak in Zimbabwe.

Dr Paahla said 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,” he said.

“People are urged to ensure proper hand hygiene which includes thorough washing of hands with water and soap before and after using the bathroom/toilet, and preparing or eating food.”