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Caution during diarrhoea peak season

Incidents of diarrhoea disease (DD) will be on the increase as we head into summer, with children under the age of 5 being particularly affected.

This, according to the Western Cape Government Health (WCGH), which encourages the public to heed the warning signs associated with DD, especially during diarrhoea peak season (also referred to as paediatric surge season) which takes place annually from November to May. “Paediatric surge season takes place during November to May annually, being more prevalent during the warm summer months,” says Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health.

Over the past five years the WCGH has been able to reduce the number of deaths associated with diarrhoea in the province. However, the peak in reported diarrhoea cases over summer remains a concern for the Province.

During the 2017-18 DD season (November 2017-May 2018) more than 1 million children under the age of 5 were treated at primary health-care facilities (PHC), of which 29 260 were diagnosed with diarrhoea.

“There were slightly more cases of diarrhoea and pneumonia in the most recent summer and winter seasons than the previous year, but less than the years before that,” says Professor Hassan Mahomed, Public Health Medicine Specialist at the Western Cape Government Health

The areas most affected during paediatric surge season are those with poor infrastructure and lack of access to clean water and good sanitation. “Virtually all Western Cape PHC facilities see an increase in the number of children under five suffering from various degrees of dehydration due to infectious diarrhoeal disease during these months,” explains Mohamed.

“The WCGH’s interventions have managed to keep the death toll relatively low, but we need communities to work with us,” states Mbombo.

How can diarrhoea be prevented?

. by improving access to clean water and safe sanitation

. promoting education about hygiene

. improving weaning practices

. immunising all children

. keeping food and water clean

. washing hands with soap (the baby’s hands too) before touching food

. practicing the sanitary disposal of stools

. By exclusive breastfeeding - when the baby receives only breast milk and nothing else

. Using the home-made sugar salt solution in the first 24 hours

When diarrhoea persists for more than 24 hours, it is advisable to visit your nearest clinic or contact a health-care provider.

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