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By Thupeyo Muleya
Beitbridge — Five people in Beitbridge District have died following an outbreak of a strain of falciparum malaria, while over 800 cases have tested positive, it has emerged. The disease, which at the onset of the rainy season was concentrated on the eastern parts of the district, has spread rapidly across Beitbridge. Sources in the border town said three of the victims are reported to be children while two others are adults.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease typically transmitted through bites by an infected anopheles mosquito.
Known signs and symptoms of malaria include: vomiting, profuse sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, anaemia, headache, high fever and shaking chills that range from moderate to severe among others.
Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director, Dr Chipo Chikodzore, could not be drawn to comment on the issue and referred all questions to Dr Portia Manangazira, who is the Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
“I am not allowed to discuss any health-related issues with members of the media. You may call Dr Manangazira”, she said.
Dr Manangazira further referred this paper to Dr Joseph Mberikunahse who is the National Malaria Control Programme Director.
“You may contact Dr Mberikunashe. He is the one dealing with issues relating to malaria,” said Dr Manangazira.
However, Dr Mberikunashe said he was out of the country and was yet to get a brief on the matter.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gerald Gwinji promised to respond to questions sent to him, though he had not done so by the time of going to print.
A health expert who preferred to be anonymous said cases of malaria started increasing across the country as the rainfall heightened.
“The rains have created breeding places for mosquitoes, which also spread malaria and that is not a problem peculiar to Beitbridge.
“Most malaria-risk areas were sprayed between October and December last year, though some people from Beitbridge were somehow resistant.
“In some cases, the deaths are a direct result of delays in accessing medication attention by the victims, “said the official.
Beitbridge District Administrator, Mrs Kiliboni Ndou, who also chairs the local Civil Protection Unit confirmed the outbreak, but could not release any figures.
“Yes, we have an outbreak of malaria and we have started mobilising resources from other players to combat the disease.
“It’s unfortunate you will have to contact the Ministry of Health for the actual figures,” she said.
Mrs Ndou said they had teams on the ground educating people on the disease and the importance of seeking early treatment to reduce mortality in the district.