Distressed farmers and residents of the City of Matlosana in North West have been called to calm following widespread panic talk of a possible typhoid fever outbreak and fears that its causal bacteria might be present in local water sources.
Community farmers feared for their health last week when the local government announced an investigation into a rumoured outbreak of the disease. The City of Matlosana assured residents and farmers that the city’s water is free from “any bacteria or disease relating to typhoid”.
Typhoid fever is a bacterial disease spread through food, water or close contact with someone infected by Salmonella typhi bacteria. The disease, which is partly preventable by vaccination, is treatable but potentially lethal if complications develop.
“We have received the results from the laboratory. We can confirm that… our water has no typhoid or anything that would make it unsafe to drink or use it,” mayor Nhlupheko Setsolela confirms to Food For Mzansi.
“This means that [an] outbreak of typhoid fever is not related to the water that is being supplied by the municipality. Our water is clean.”
Farmers still concerned about water safety
Despite the mayor’s call for calm amongst residents, and despite typhoid fever affecting only humans, livestock farmers still feel uneasy about the overall state of the water.
Livestock farmer Kagiso Marumo, who farms in the Jouberton township, fears that his free-roaming livestock will get sick and die.
“The municipality says their water is safe while other farmers in the surroundings have cited that the water was not safe for use; even for the animals,” he says.
At the moment, Marumo is sourcing water from outside of Klerksdorp, “just for my livestock and myself to drink. The water panic is real. We need to be assured that water is safe.”
Marumo’s concerns are shared by Simon Ntepe, a pathologist from the Medilab clinical laboratory in Rustenburg, who has pointed to a wider water safety issue and has called for more water tests to be done. Ntepe has also cautioned residents and farmers against letting their guard down.
“[From] my experience I [would] advise the municipality and all relevant departments to continue doing more tests. [Water safety] must not just be taken as a small thing or be brushed aside.”
Other contaminants could still be present
Furthermore, he points out, farmers should be extra cautious as the root of the water problems is unknown at the moment. Everyone needs to take extra care of the kind of water they consume,” he says.
Ntepe reckons it is not enough for the municipality to just say their water is free from typhoid-causing bacteria while community members have raised concerns about drinking water.
“The country at large, including in Klerksdorp, [has] a crisis of clean water. We are near the mines and food industries. The water could be contaminated one way or the other.”Simon Ntepe, a pathologist from the Medilab clinical laboratory
Mathapelo Diphoko, a resident of Alabama, also says that tap water is dirty. Livestock roaming the streets are also drinking water running in the road. “I can believe those people who say the water contains bacteria, because in the past week we had people complaining about stomach cramps. The water also was not clean, so anything is possible.”
Food For Mzansi could not locate confirmed cases of typhoid fever in the area, or the exact origin of the rumours. A nurse at the Jouberton clinic also says that no cases of typhoid fever were reported to them since the press release was issued by the municipality. However, concerns about the safety of local drinking water are longstanding.
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