Typhoid outbreak kills two, hospitalises 225

The South African government has set up an inter-departmental task team to contain the impact of a typhoid outbreak, which has claimed two lives and hospitalised 225 in the town of Delmas, 70 km east of Johannesburg.

The team is currently considering a proposal that Rand Water, one of the country's largest suppliers, replace the town's borehole system with piped water, said Lebona Mosia, spokesman for Mpumalanga province, where Delmas is situated.

"We still have to work out the costs and how long the process will take," he noted.

Typhoid fever, an infection caused by bacteria transmitted from faeces, is spread as a result of poor hygiene and contaminated water.

Mosia confirmed that 378 Delmas residents had been diagnosed with typhoid, of which 225 were hospitalised, while another 1,833 residents were suffering from diarrhoea, one of the symptoms of the infection.

The existing water supply in the town has been chlorinated, "but it will be another two weeks before it will be fit for consumption," he pointed out. The provincial government is currently providing 13,000 households with potable water.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), typhoid outbreaks around Delmas are common. "The last major outbreak in the area was recorded in 1993, when over 1,000 people were affected," said Dr Lucille Blumberg of the NICD.

About 13 percent of South Africa's population does not have access to clean drinking water, according to the latest UN Human Development report.