Diarrhoea outbreak in Byo: 1000+ cases reported

A vicious  diarrhoea outbreak has hit Bulawayo suburbs with more than 1 000 cases recorded so far.

Cases in the latest outbreak were first recoded in the city’s Ward 17 in Pumula suburb in July, but the outbreak has since spread across the city. 

Speaking to Sunday News yesterday, Bulawayo Health Services Department Divisional Environmental Health Officer Dr Nhlonipho Sibanda said the outbreak had spread to all the city’s clinical districts which include Emakhandeni, Nkulumane and Northern suburbs clinics. She said the Bulawayo City Council had since waivered all council fees for diarrhoea cases as part of measures to try and contain the situation, urging ill residents to visit their nearest clinics.

“We are experiencing a surge in diarrhoea cases. Gastro intestinal disease has been evolving really fast and we are concerned. It all started on July 11, 2022 when through our surveillance systems we received a report that pointed to the fact that there could be a diarrhoea outbreak in Pumula, this is where diarrhoea started from in terms of being detected. If you notice Bulawayo is an area that does not have much water, so diarrhoea is either sometimes due to poor quality of water or scarcity of water, so in Bulawayo the highest risk factor has been due to the scarcity of water in those areas. When the cases were picked up in those areas, the rapid response team were dispatched and they quickly started following up on those factors,” she said. 

Between 11 July and 20 August, 631 cases were reported. However, cases shot up to 1 070 between 23 and 31 August. Dr Sibanda said Bulawayo residents were reluctant to submit their stool samples, which she said made it difficult for the city health department to fully detect all cases and do the necessary laboratory testing. She said about 20 stool samples had been tested at a laboratory at the time of the interview.

“We have actually followed up and collected some stool specimen and some water samples, so that we can test and try and identify some positive agents from the sample. We have under-fives that have been hit hard, we also have the 21- to 24-year-olds followed by the 25- to 34-year-olds,” she said. 

Dr Sibanda said residents were also not taking diarrhoea seriously and reluctant to visit health facilities with most cases being found at home by rapid response teams. She said the city was using water bowsers to deliver clean water to residents in the city’s diarrhoea hotspots. 

Bulawayo Residents Association secretary for administration Mr Thembelani Dube said the city’s diarrhoea outbreak was due to residents resorting to unsafe alternatives of water as the city has an ongoing 72-hour water shedding programme. 

“We are having serious water shortages and sometimes residents go for up to five days without water. In Pumula North and South, some residents are resorting to wells and burst pipes to fetch water and some may end up drinking that unclean water if there is no alternative. We are therefore calling on the Bulawayo City Council to clean up this mess and to ensure that residents have clean water that is readily available. 

“We do not want another situation where lives are lost because people are made to drink unsafe water. We do not want to be taken back to those very dark times. As a city we must learn from the past disaster and ensure that some mistakes are not repeated,” he said.

Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights Executive Director Mr Khumbulani Maphosa said it was sad that the city was celebrating Commemorating World Water Week in the middle of a water borne disease outbreak.


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