Ministry of Health (MoH) has confirmed reports of a cholera outbreak in Machinga and Zomba districts.
In a statement issued on Boxing Day, the ministry said by Christmas Day, Machinga had reported 19 cases and one death while Zomba has seven cases with no death.
According to MoH, all the cases are from Lake Chilwa area, Malawi’s second-largest water body after Lake Malawi.
The ministry is advising the public to observe personal hygiene at all times, especially when preparing food and washing hands after using a toilet.
“Cholera can be prevented by proper use of latrines, washing hands with soap after visiting the toilet, before handling food, before eating food and after changing baby nappies; drinking or using safe treated water [or boiled water] all the time and practising food hygiene,” reads the statement signed by MoH Principal Secretary MacPhail Magwira.
The statement further urges people to wash fruits such as mangoes before eating them.
MoH says it is doing everything possible to control the cholera outbreak and that health workers in all the health facilities are ready to help and treat any member of the community.
“Medical supplies for cholera treatment are available in all health facilities. Chlorine for water treatment is also being distributed in the communities by health surveillance assistants,” said Magwira.
For many decades, Malawi has been struggling with cholera—both in its prevention as well as treatment. The country registered the highest cholera cases in 2008/09 where 3 250 cases and 82 deaths were recorded. Since then the trend has been declining.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by the ingestion of bacterium Vibrio Cholerae present in faecally contaminated water or food and it is primarily linked to insufficient access to safe water and proper sanitation.
WHO says cholera is characterised in its most severe form by a sudden onset of acute watery diarrhoea that can lead to death by severe dehydration though about 75 percent of people infected do not develop any symptoms.
“Unlike other diarrhoeal diseases, it can kill healthy adults within hours. Individuals with lower immunity, such as malnourished children or people living with HIV, are at greater risk of death if infected by cholera,” reads information on cholera on WHO website. n