by Kim Saunders

Deathly diarrhoea

Cases of severe diarrhoea has spread throughout Durban

Cases of severe diarrhoea has spread throughout Durban
Deathly diarrhoea

"A preliminary investigation into the cause of the severe diarrhoea that claimed the lives of two children has revealed that the rotavirus has spread through the city," health officials said.

"During the investigation, the team confirmed that the eThekwini region has an outbreak of diarrhoea. More than half of the samples collected tested positive for rotavirus," municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said. 

According to the World Health Organisation, rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoeal disease and dehydration in infants and young children worldwide. Most symptomatic episodes occur in children aged between three months and two years. The virus spreads rapidly, through person-to-person contact, airborne droplets, and possibly contact with contaminated toys.

Symptoms usually appear two to three days after infection, and include projectile vomiting and diarrhoea, often with fever and abdominal pain.The deputy head of communicable disease services in the eThekwini municipality, Dr Ayo Olowolagba, said that at least 200 samples were taken from Mayville, Amaoti, KwaMashu and Ntuzuma.

Olowolagba said investigations were continuing to make certain that the outbreak was a result of rotavirus. Health officials reported to the city's community and emergency committee that there were at least 98 patients being treated for acute diarrhoea at King Edward VIII Hospital, two of whom have died, and 39 at Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, in Phoenix.

All 137 cases, which were said to be severe, were reported on the same day. Olowolagba said more cases have since been reported.

"It might not be a case of it spreading; it could be that our awareness campaign is working. ''More mothers are bringing their children to hospital because they have been alerted to the outbreak instead of staying at home and trying to treat it on their own," he said.

Olowolagba said rotavirus was highly contagious. According to medical journals, more than 500,000 children under five are killed by the virus globally each year. There is no drug to treat rotavirus infection, but oral rehydration and a preventative vaccination are recommended. In most hospitals and clinics, oral rehydration is available.

Parents are shown how to mix the salt and sugar solution that helps to counteract diarrhoea. "Mothers and caregivers must use the sugar and salt solution properly. Failure to do so can result in deaths that could easily have been prevented."

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