South Africa records two cholera cases imported from Malawi


South Africa has recorded two laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera which have been imported from Malawi.

South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, said in a statement yesterday that the patients are sisters who had travelled together from Johannesburg to Malawi to attend a funeral service, and returned by bus on 30 January 2023.

“Both patients had developed symptoms on their return to Johannesburg. One patient presented to a local clinic and was then admitted to hospital,” said Phaahla.

During the case investigation and follow-up of close contacts, the other sister reported that she also developed diarrhoea whilst travelling back from Malawi but it resolved within a day and she did not seek health care.

“A close contact (household family member) of one of the patients was admitted to hospital on 4 February with diarrhoea and dehydration, and is considered a possible case,” Phaahla said, adding that laboratory test results are pending.

Meanwhile, the health department is working closely with the affected province, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and World Health Organization to monitor the situation.

Currently, the World Health Organization does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions on countries based on available information in line with the international health regulations.

“The port health officials at the ports of entry (especially land and air) will remain on alert for travellers arriving from countries experiencing cholera outbreak,” reads part of the statement signed by Phaahla.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae and can be deadly if left untreated. It is mainly spread by contaminated food and water.

South Africa is not endemic for cholera, and the last outbreak was in 2008/9 with about 12 000 cases. The outbreak resulted from an outbreak in Zimbabwe which led to surge of imported cases and subsequent local transmission in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces through contaminated water.

In Malawi, the current cholera outbreak started in March last year and has killed 1,254 people and the country has recorded over 38,000 cases.

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