Nata-Gweta placed under health alert
The rains have stopped and floodwaters are beginning to recede. However, in the Nata-Gweta area health officials are bracing for a public health crisis, warning residents to be on the alert for a range of diseases, from infections that can transmit in close quarters to mosquito and water-borne illnesses.
Serious outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, different types of diarrheas and bilharzias are a possibility after major flooding. “All the normal infectious complications will be magnified when you have a whole host of things making the situation worse,” says Dr Ivan Kgetse, Head of Tutume District Health Management Team (DHMT).
More than 150 households have been displaced and are housed in tents following floods that have ravaged Gweta, Zoroga and Nata villages in recent weeks. Dr Kgetse explains that a district medical assessment team comprising a nurse, environmental officer, health education and promotion officer, malaria officer and matron of Gweta clinic, has been dispatched to look for risks of infection and to isolate anyone who might cause a health risk.
“Already the water has been tested and has been found not to be fit for human consumption. As a result, Jojo tanks have been set up at the clinics and throughout the village and Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) bowsers supply water everyday,” he said. Flood water, he went on, may contain dangerous bacteria like cholera from mixing with raw human sewage, therefore people are advised to avoid direct contact with the flood water as a precautionary measure.
An external team comprising different specialists is also expected to arrive in Gweta on Thursday to assist. “We are actively surveying the situation and noting all the cases coming to clinics to form statistics. This will help us establish if the illnesses are related to water and which areas they are from. If a trend develops, then we will dispatch the rapid response team to attend the area,” he explained.
So far, Dr Kgetse said three cases of malaria have been reported and the patients, all from one household, are on treatment. Treated mosquito nets have also been distributed throughout the district. He shared that there has been an increase of diarrhea cases but that, he explained, was the case throughout the country because of the recent heavy rains.
Health officials are also advising people who haven’t had a tetanus shot in 10 years to consider going to primary care doctors to receive one. A serious and sometimes deadly bacterial infection that causes painful muscle spasms, tetanus results from a scrape or cut that can be common as people clean up debris from floodwater that has mixed with sewage or other dangerous contaminants.