The Sunday Mail
Government is in the process of acquiring cholera and typhoid vaccines that are expected to be administered in high-risk areas and informal settlements before the rainy season, it has been established.
The vaccines give protection for three to four years.
However, they cannot be administered to children who are less than a year old.
It is believed that cholera and typhoid-causing bacteria (vibrio cholarae and salmonella typhi, respectively) usually flourish during the rainy season.
Health officials have since established that the new strains of the water-borne diseases seem to be resistant to the first line of antibiotics (ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone).
A second-line antibiotic, azithromycin, is currently being used.
Director of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Portia Manangazira told The Sunday Mail last week that the exercise will not only target areas that experienced recent outbreaks, but will be extended to informal settlements in high-risk areas.
“We are now addressing the issue with vaccination as we have noted that persons with cholera are now resistant to the antibiotic we are using,” said Dr Manangazira.
“We are planning to vaccinate before October to address the outbreak in four suburbs that have been hit by the outbreak the most. These are Glen View, Budiriro, Glen Norah and Mbare.
Government is also considering covering Chitungwiza and Epworth.
“And then sometime in October, we are going to vaccinate for typhoid; that way we can preserve the antibiotic and dramatically reduce the outbreak of the disease,” she said.
Dr Manangazira said it is prudent to take the pre-emptive step and vaccinate people in the high-risk areas.
“These two diseases have different manifestations. Cholera is easy to diagnose but for typhoid, it is very difficult as it can affect any part of the body.
“It can affect your skin or eyes. Some people have been rushed to theatre because the bacteria would have gone through the bowel lining, creating bowel perforation. Some people have had kidney failure and end up at dialysis, only to realise that it is typhoid; some get meningitis.
“That is why prevention is better than cure because 80 percent of the time, the standard procedure is to drill to the bone and that is very expensive. The disease affects the patient all the way to the bone marrow. Only a few people can do that in Zimbabwe.”
There is need, she added, for people to be wary of other diseases as contaminated water is likely to make people susceptible to other ailments.
While Government has taken the decision to roll out vaccines, there is, however, no substitute for potable water, she noted.
“We will be deploying the vaccines, but not as a replacement for safe water. There is no replacement for safe water, we vaccinate for cholera, then two or three weeks after that, we vaccinate for typhoid, then cholera again before the rainy season.”
Official statistics show that of the cholera cases reported so far, 21 percent are children under the age of five. Health officials are presently worried that people in high-risk areas are also in danger of co-infections, which are difficult to diagnose and treat.
Deputy director of epidemiology and disease control, Dr Isaac Phiri indicated last week that typhoid and cholera are spawned by similar conditions.
“We suspect co-infection because there were three bacteria found in the water, namely E coli, salmonella typhi and vibrio cholarae, so people could contract both and that will cause complications.
“We actually call them Siamese twins because where we find one, we find the other; the conditions that brew one also brew the other,” he said.