Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are under immense attack from communicable diseases such as Hepatitis E, Listeriosis and Cholera which are threatening the lives of millions of SADC residents and unless drastic preventative measures are taken, a medical calamity is fast-approaching.
The diseases are all water borne and are mainly caused by unhygienic environmental conditions such as portable water, toilets or unclean households in general. They are also clear indications of the effects of the drought that has plagued the region for the last five years.
Hepatitis E outbreak has become very worrisome in Namibia as the total number of people has increased to 237 from a mere 9 people diagnosed last year. The first identified case was admitted during the month of October 2017.
Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV) which is a small virus, with a positive-sense, single-stranded ribonucleic acid (RNA) genome. The virus has 4 different types: genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 which can be found in both humans and animals. It is transmitted mainly through contaminated drinking water. The infection is self-limiting and the incubation period is about 10 weeks. Sporadically the disease acute liver failure develops and can lead to death.
Symptoms usually include a sudden onset of mild fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach pain and yellowing of the skin and eyes. Transmission of hepatitis E can be prevented by washing of hands with soap, avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging or sharing of eating utensils.
Listeriosis is a severe bacterial infection caused by the rod shaped bacteria listeria monocytogenes. The bacterium is spread when people eat food contaminated with the bacterium. The disease is found in the environment, in water and in soil. As a result any contact with animals or plants can become a risk.
Infection with listeria bacteria results in mild to severe infectious diarrhoea.
It is mostly precarious for people with weak immune systems as it can further lead to meningitis or to blood poisoning.
Thus far the South African authorities have reported about 577 cases of listeriosis this year and most of the cases are found in the Gauteng province.
Listeriosis symptoms include fever, stiff neck, confusion, general weakness and vomiting which is sometimes led by diarrhoea in severe cases.
It can be prevented by not drinking raw milk, practicing good hygiene and thorough cooking of food such as meat or fish.
Zambia this year alone recorded a total number of 67 deaths and 3000 cases of the disease.
The country plans to vaccinate two million people who are still very much at risk against the deadly disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has since 2000 to 2016 recorded a total of 3.4 million cases of Cholera and 65,600 deaths.
The bacterial disease which is caused by the consumption of contaminated food and water has in recent times become a concern for countries such as Zambia, Angola and Congo where it is prevalent.
In 2017, WHO recorded more than 500 deaths in 20 provinces of Congo and 24 000 cases of cholera. Water-borne diseases are not new in the country because of poor sanitation and lack of access to clean water.
Since late last year Angola has reported 10 deaths and recorded 150 cases after cholera outbreak heat three provinces (Zaire, Cabinda and Benguela) in the northern parts of the country.
Cholera affects both children and adults which can easily result in death within hours due to dehydration if not treated.
The spread of the disease can be prevented by drinking safe or boiled water, reporting cases to health facilities, safe preparation and storage of food as well as safe disposal of faeces.