BY BRENNA MATENDERE/STEPHEN CHADENGA
A TYPHOID fever scare has rattled the densely-populated Mkoba suburb in Gweru, with 19 new suspected cases reported at health centres in the city, council has confirmed.
Mkoba was hit by a typhoid outbreak last year, which killed 11 people and left thousands hospitalised.
Sam Sekenhamo, Gweru City Council health services director said the suspected cases were detected from people who were attending a funeral in Mkoba 19.
“The city’s health department received information of some suspected typhoid cases in Mkoba 19, from a household where there was a funeral,” he said. “Our rapid response team carried out some investigations and took stool samples from the affected members of the family. We are awaiting laboratory results, which should be out soon. We are still looking for the addresses of people where residents have been taken to hospital to enable us to quickly investigate and institute informed medical interventions,” Sekenhamo added.
He also revealed that council will begin surveillance at health institutions in order to pick and test people showing symptoms of typhoid.
“We are having our disease surveillance meeting where all health institutions report on the disease statistics at their centres. That way, we will know how to react rapidly to combat any outbreak of typhoid,” he said.
Residents in the affected area told Southern Eye that about 19 people were ferried by ambulances to various clinics and hospital in the city, in what seems to be a repeat of the last year’s typhoid outbreak.
“I stay a few metres from the house which had a funeral. We saw several people being taken by two ambulances to clinics and probably Gweru Provincial Hospital at different intervals. This happened from Saturday and up to now there are still people who are complaining of diarrhoea, headaches and vomiting, symptoms exhibited by people who died of typhoid last year,” Mkoba resident Tafara Zviripai said.
When Southern Eye visited the area yesterday morning, residents urged the authorities to urgently intervene.
“The problem is that like last time, the authorities respond more seriously when the outbreak has claimed lives, this is a matter of urgency which needs serious attention. We cannot imagine starting to dig graves again after people have died of typhoid,” said another resident, Nomore Wurayayi.
Midlands provincial medical director, Simon Nyadundu confirmed that his office had received reports of the suspected typhoid cases and said the city was now on high alert.
“Tests we conducted on Monday did not reveal typhoid. Eight patients were investigated and tests were negative for typhoid,” said the PMD.
But briefing journalists later in the day, Sekenhamo said the mourners had diarrhoea after consuming contaminated food.
“What was circulated on social media emanated from a case of diarrhoea where a family in Mkoba 19 ate leftovers that had been put in aluminum containers for two days,” he said.
He urged residents not to panic saying there were no typhoid cases in Gweru after the eight of the 19 sick mourners tested negative for typhoid.
“There is no typhoid in Gweru and let us send the correct messages to the people,” he said.
Typhoid, caused by the bacterium salmonella typhi, is usually spread through contaminated food or water. Gweru is facing chronic water shortages attributed to ageing infrastructure. Residents are relying on water from boreholes, which were previously condemned and were blamed for last year’s typhoid outbreak.