Diarrhoeal Disease Season
Diarrhoea is a major cause of childhood mortality in the Western Cape. During the summer season, diarrhoea is prevalent as infection spreads fast through food and water contamination.
Children under the age of five years and infants are particularly vulnerable to diarrhoea. It is directly linked to poor hygiene and sanitation and most commonly caused by contaminated water and poor bottle hygiene in the preparation of formula feed.
If your child suffers from diarrhoea or has a runny tummy, vomits or refuses to breastfeed, then a sugar-salt solution is recommended. A mixture of one litre of clean water, eight teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt can be given to a child to drink regularly. However, should the signs persist the child must be taken to the nearest clinic immediately. Diarrhoea can be prevented by washing hands regularly.
The Western Cape Government urges residents, especially residents from informal settlements, to visit the Oral Rehydration Treatment (ORT) corners at their nearest health facility to access information about diarrhoea and also how to make and use the sugar-salt solution (SSS) when their children show early signs of diarrhoea.
If a child is suffering with severe diarrhoea symptoms and given immediate treatment and proper care, she/he can recover completely within a few days. The disease occurs commonly where there are shared water and sanitation facilities. The hotspots in the Cape Town Metropole where most cases of fatal diarrhoea were reported the previous summer are Gugulethu, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Delft, Bloekombos, Walacedene, Langa, Du Noon, Imizamo Yethu, Crossroads and Brown's Farm.
It is important to prepare food safely to avoid any health problem.
Parents should protect their families by following the basic steps to have safe and healthy meals:
- Clean: Wash hands, contact surfaces (eg kitchen counters) and utensils often to avoid the spread of bacteria.
- Separate: Keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- Cook: Make sure you kill harmful bacteria by cooking foods to the proper internal temperature.
- Chill: Keep cold foods cold. Bacteria can grow rapidly when food is allowed to sit in the so-called danger zone between 4°C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F).
- Use refrigerated leftovers as soon as possible, ideally within two or three days.
- Handle and prepare food safely.
- Wash your hands often. Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds.