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Diarrhoea death toll climbs to 67

Staff Writer
The diarrhoea death toll has climbed to 67 in the five weeks since the epidemic first hit Botswana.

Addressing a press conference in Gaborone yesterday, acting director in the Department of Public Health, Setshwano Mokgweetsinyana said that his department has so far recorded 67 deaths out of the 5,580 diarrhoea cases reported countrywide. 

Mokgweetsinyana said between August 29 and September 4, 19 of the 28 health districts were on high alert regarding the outbreak, while seven of them have since gone below the red alert threshold. Only one health district, Okavango, has not been affected by the outbreak up to now.

During the same period, Francistown has had an increased number of cases and is therefore, still on high alert.

Conversely, the number of reported cases in Mabutsane, Ngami, North East, Palapye, Bobirwa, Boteti and Selibe Phikwe decreased significantly below the action and high alert threshold, Mokgweetsinyana said. Mahalapye has had the highest number of deaths with 10 cases, followed by Gaborone with seven.  Bobirwa and Gantsi have each recorded six deaths so far, with Ngami, Palapye and Kweneng East recording five deaths each.  Kgatleng, which was the most affected district (with 105 reported cases by the second week of the outbreak), has recorded two deaths thus far.

Mokgweetsinyana explained that most of the deaths in the Mahalapye health district were from the Sefhare catchment area, while most of the Gaborone deaths were registered at Princess Marina Hospital, which receives patients from all over the southern part of the country.  Moshupa, which had four deaths, was noted for community - as opposed to hospital- deaths.

He said Ngami, which recorded five deaths

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in the week beginning August 29 and ending Sept 4, recorded the highest number for any district in a week.  The acting director said the water situation in Maun, where there is flooding of rivers and shortage of treated drinking water, might worsen the problem. "There is no safe water from boreholes in Maun and everybody is being served by bowsers.  If residents are forced to use raw water, they should boil it first," he advised.

According to officials at the Ministry of Health, diarrhoea is transmitted through the eating and drinking of contaminated food and water and by unhygienic practices.  Rotavirus has been identified in a number of stool samples tested across the country. The rotavirus infects the bowels and is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and children throughout the world. Statistics indicate that the virus causes more than half a million deaths worldwide annually.

The Ministry of Health has an all year round surveillance system for diarrhoeal diseases among children less than five years old.  The surveillance system collects, analyses data and provides feedback to various health districts.

"The surveillance system detected frequent diarrhoeal disease outbreaks especially after the 2006 outbreak.

The outbreaks usually occur during the summer season and after heavy rainfall. However, last year, there was diarrhoeal disease outbreak at the end of the winter season," the Ministry of Health has reported.

In 2006, Botswana was hit hard by a diarrhoea outbreak during which over 20,000 cases were recorded and 450 deaths occurred.



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