NICD detects typhoid outbreak in South Africa

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has warned that typhoid clusters have been detected in the Western Cape and North West.

Typhoid is a bacterial disease that is spread through contaminated food, water or close contact. Symptoms include high fever, headache, stomach pain and either constipation or diarrhoea.
Typhoid can be treated using antibiotics and can be prevented through good hand hygiene, washing hands when working with food and after using the toilet. Vaccines are also recommended.

Juno Thomas, head of the centre for enteric diseases, said the institute is working with health authorities to bring under control three separate outbreaks in the Western Cape and one in North West. Thomas said the cases date back to 2020.

The NICD is using genome sequencing, which is similar to the one used in 2017 to trace listeriosis. This is used to investigate all typhoid fever cases in the country.

It revealed that investigations into the outbreak are underway.

In total, the Western Cape has 64 reported cases of typhoid fever, with 18 cases in the North West and 45 in Gauteng.

The NICD said despite the high cases in Gauteng, it is distributed extensively in the province and that there is no distinct or localised outbreak.

“Through that, we can tell where there are clusters with the same genetic strain. This means there is likely a common source of infection,” said Thomas.

South Africa was last severely hit by typhoid in 2005, with 2 900 cases reported in Mpumalanga due to contaminated water.

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