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The City of Cape Town experiences a surge in diarrhoea during summer, as the warmer weather promotes the spread of germs. With the current drought crisis, City Health is drastically increasing efforts to ensure that residents are aware of how to maintain the necessary health and hygiene practices despite water restrictions. Read more below:

The City Health Department’s combined efforts to reduce childhood mortality from diarrhoea and pneumonia takes place from November to May annually, a period which has been called the Surge Season. The city-wide campaign, which was launched earlier today, this year includes a focus on maintaining good health and hygiene practices during the drought and incorporating Day Zero.

‘The water crisis that Cape Town is facing brings an added challenge to this year’s City Health Surge Season campaign. The peak of incidents of diarrhoea occur between February and April, and shortly after that there is a surge in pneumonia. The City is acutely aware of the potential health implications that a lack of water can have on health and hygiene practices. The campaign that launched today is aimed at creating awareness of which critical hygiene practices need to be observed despite the drought,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.

Alderman Smith joined health officials to kick off the campaign which includes city-wide back-to-back educational events at health facilities, food vendors, schools, early childhood development centres and in the community at large. ‘The prevention of water- and food-borne diseases requires strict levels of hygiene to avoid cross-contamination. When diarrhoea develops, residents must be aware of the danger signs and they need to know what to do in that case. Now more than before, we need to be sticklers about handwashing, washing fruit and vegetables and cleaning food preparation surfaces. Food-borne diseases that occur due to cross contamination do not have to become more prevalent if the proper levels of hygiene are maintained,’ said Alderman Smith.

During the campaign, environmental health practitioners will communicate the five keys to food safety and give tips on how the use of squeeze bottles can help achieve that without wasting water.

At the same time, nurses will ensure that children under five years are up to date with their immunisations, are dewormed and receive vitamin A supplements, while those who present with dehydration will receive priority treatment at the clinics to prevent disease progression.

‘We have been dealing with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. I encourage people to take their children to the clinics, to ensure that all immunisations are up to date and that they are regularly de-wormed and receive the necessary supplements,’ said Alderman Smith at the event.

In addition, the City is part of an established outbreak response team together with Provincial Government. All notifiable cases of disease are investigated thoroughly to determine the source, and to ensure that appropriate containment measures are enacted where necessary. Health officers actively collect data and monitor reported cases during the diarrhoeal season to pick up early trends and ensure a rapid response.

Last year, the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP) was adopted by Council to improve how the administration works.

‘We have seen today how various departments and directorates can cooperate to improve the health and well-being of residents. These are trying times but by working together, we can get through it,’ said Alderman Smith.

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