Zimbabwe: Typhoid outbreak triggers fears of cholera

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Doctors in Zimbabwe said more than 800 cases of typhoid have been reported in Harare, the capital, in an outbreak of the bacterial disease. 

Continuing poor sanitation conditions could lead to a cholera outbreak, the director of health services for Harare has warned.

While no deaths have been reported in the last three weeks, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said Sunday that the government lacked urgency in dealing with the public health situation, and the outbreak could worsen.

The group said in a statement that with recent heavy rains in Harare, clean water supplies were irregular or "completely absent" in townships around the city, while burst sewers were left unattended, the South African Press Association reported.

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The disease, which incubates over three weeks, has been traced to contaminated meat and fish sold by street vendors. Samples have tested positive for Salmonella typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid.

State-run newspaper the Herald said 882 typhoid cases have been reported in Kuwadzana, an impoverished Harare township that has been the epicenter of the outbreak.

Harare health director Dr. Prosper Chonzi said the conditions could lead to a cholera outbreak, and a clean-up and awareness campaign is underway.

"We can have cholera anytime. The environment is conducive for the outbreak. We need to be proactive and play our part," he told the Herald.

In 2009, more than 4,000 people died in a devastating cholera outbreak blamed on a lack of clean water and the collapse of Zimbabwe's sanitation system.

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