Diarrhoea Disease Season
Feedback from our health facilities show that incidents of Diarrhoea Disease are on the increase from previous years with children under the age of five being particularly affected.
As part of the Western Cape Government Health’s strategy to reduce the number of diarrhoea cases in the province, the department will embark on a five-month (November 2014 to March 2015) awareness and education campaign to drive home the key message of how preventative action can reduce the risk of disease. The campaign will include radio and print advertisements, face-to-face interaction at various taxi ranks, taxi interior branding and detailed portals on MXit and social media sites.
The Western Cape Government Health appeals to parents and caregivers to take special care of their children who are prone to this disease during the upcoming Diarrhoea Disease Season (DD Season).
The DD Season is between November till May when there is an increase in acute diarrhoea cases due to the warm summer months when the disease is more prevalent. However, diarrhoea cases are also reported throughout the year.
The areas most affected during DD season are those with poor infrastructure and lack of access to clean water. Virtually all our facilities see an increase in the number of children under five (5) suffering from various degrees of dehydration due to infectious diarrhoeal disease during these months.
Over the past five years the Western Cape Government Health has managed to reduce the number of deaths in the province due to diarrhoea disease. However, there was an increase in the cases recorded at health facilities during the past financial year. In 2012/13, 40 050 cases were recorded and in 2013/14 there was an increase in cases with 43 891 treated. This resulted in a slight increase in the number of deaths reported - in the province over the same period - 52 in the Metro and nine (9) deaths in the rural areas.
The Department’s interventions have managed to keep deaths relatively low, but we need communities to work with us. “It is not necessary to lose the life of child to diarrhoea if we are aware of the symptoms, and keep a suffering child hydrated,” says the Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha. “We will continue to drive our interventions, which have demonstrated to achieve results.”
“The first warm days of summer, should ring alarm bells for parents and care givers, because of the increase in temperatures resulting in heightened symptoms of diarrhoea,” warned Minister Botha. “It is critical that parents and caregivers know the symptoms of diarrhoea and how to treat cases of diarrhoea. This can save a child’s life.”
The Western Cape Government Health has introduced a number of interventions to bring down deaths resulting from diarrhoea in the province.
A multi-sectoral team meets weekly during the diarrhoea season. This team drives activities including training staff in effective clinical methods. They also focus on hotspot areas checking water quality, toilets and general sanitation in these areas and also conducting outreach activities visiting households to manage the problem. This co-ordinated approach is the reason why there has been a significant drop in the number of diarrhoea deaths over the past few years.
All Western Cape Government Health facilities also have Oral Rehydration Treatment (ORT) corners or rooms. Mothers and caregivers are urged to visit these areas for information about the prevention and treatment of diarrhoea, and also how to make and use the sugar-salt solution (SSS) when their children show early signs of diarrhoea.
However, the role parents and caregivers need to play in preventing their children from catching diarrhoea disease are crucial.
What is Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoeal disease is defined as loose or watery stools at least three times per day or more frequently than normal. Although most episodes of childhood diarrhoea are mild, acute cases can lead to significant fluid loss and dehydration. This may result in death or it may have other severe consequences, if the body's fluids are not replaced. Diarrhoeal disease is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide.
What Causes Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea can be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infections, the result of auto-immune problems such as inflammatory bowel disease or tuberculosis, colon cancer and enteritis. Food allergy or food intolerance, like gluten intolerance or fructose mal-absorption, can cause diarrhoea. Pernicious anaemia, or allergy impaired bowel function due to the inability to absorb vitamin B12, can also be a causal factor.
Hand Washing to Prevent Diarrhoea
Since the introduction of the hand washing campaign in the Western Cape, the Department has recorded a remarkable decrease in diarrhoeal disease hospital deaths in children under 5 years old.
Hand washing as a regular hygiene routine can play a significant role in the prevention of disease, and in the Western Cape’s goal of reaching the Millennium Development Goals, since 80% of germs are spread from our hands. It is vital to wash your hands in between activities. In other words, if you have changed baby’s nappy and are now going to feed, you must wash your hands first. Even if your home does not have running water, keep a plastic cool drink bottle filled with water handy, so that you can rinse your hands with clean water after washing them.
How can Diarrhoea be Prevented?
Diarrhoea can be prevented by:
- improving access to clean water and safe sanitation
- promoting education about hygiene
- improving weaning practices
- immunising all children, especially against measles
- keeping food and water clean
- washing hands with soap (the baby's hands too) before touching food
- practicing the sanitary disposal of stools
If diarrhoea is treated immediately and you receive proper care, you can recover within a few days in most cases. When diarrhoea persists for more than 24 hours, it is always advisable to visit your nearest clinic or contact a healthcare provider.