The death toll from the cholera outbreak in the Zimbabwean capital Harare’s high-density suburbs of Glen View and Budiriro has risen to 10, with health officials tracing the source of the disease to a burst sewer pipe contaminating borehole water used by residents in the affected areas, the Harare City Council said.
There are fears that the diarrhoeal disease could spread to Glen Norah, some 14km from the city centre. By end of day Saturday 320 people had been hospitalised, with 223 patients being treated in Glen View and about 100 at the Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital. Some of the patients were being treated and discharged.
Boreholes in the affected areas have since been decommissioned and cholera vaccines are set to be dispensed this week. Council health director Dr Clemence Duri said authorities continued to monitor the affected areas.
“The death toll has risen to 10 after five more people died today [Saturday] morning. Of the five, one was from Glen Norah, while the others are from Glen View. Although we are not yet sure of the cause of death of the one from Glen Norah, we are suspecting it is cholera,” he said.
“We have established that the outbreak was caused by a burst sewer pipe which contaminated borehole water. We have, however, rectified the situation and replaced the pipe. We have since decommissioned two boreholes in Glen View and we will continue monitoring the area,” Duri said.
Health and child care ministry director of epidemiology and disease control Dr Portia Manangazira said government was on high alert and would soon submit a proposal to introduce cholera vaccines in high-risk areas across the country.
“We realise that the cases are on the rise, thus we will be on high alert nationwide given the season that we are in and that the rain season is approaching. We are going to submit a proposal for cholera vaccines in some areas that we have mapped up as high-risk areas for cholera,” she said.
This is the fourth time in the past 15 years that cholera – a treatable disease which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is lethal if not attended to promptly – has struck Zimbabwe. In August, seven people died after a typhoid outbreak in Gweru.
Water supplies in most urban areas such as Harare and Gweru have been intermittent, with residents resorting to unprotected water sources.