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Cholera found in Jukskei river

2001-01-18 21:15

Durban - Gauteng is facing a potential cholera epidemic after the Jukskei River, which runs through Alexandra township near Johannesburg tested positive for cholera, Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Ronnie Kasrils announced on Thursday.

A task team has been established to try and combat an outbreak in the area.

Thursday's confirmation that the Jukskei River tested positive came amidst efforts by government to try and curb the spread of cholera in KwaZulu-Natal where 22 000 people had been infected and 69 had died.

Kasrils is currently visiting cholera-affected areas in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Jukskei River flows through Alexandra and Midrand, then west of Pretoria until eventually flowing into the Crocodile River and the Hartbeespoort Dam.

Big Effort Needed to Avoid Crisis

The dam supplies water to millions of people in the Pretoria area.

Kasrils said a co-ordinated effort by government on national, provincial and local levels was needed to prevent a crisis.

The Johannesburg unicity council reassured people that areas receiving piped municipal water did not have to fear cholera infection.

"It must be clearly stated that there is no relationship between tap water supplied in the Johannesburg area and the Jukskei. Tap water is and remains absolutely safe."

The biggest threat was to the number of informal settlements situated next to the river. In many instances the river was the only source of water.

A task team led by the eastern metropolitan council was established to combat an outbreak of cholera in the area and to identify high-risk areas.

The council would arrange for water tanks to be brought into high-risk areas where people did not have safe drinking water.

So far 16 cholera cases had been confirmed in Gauteng, but according to the health department all these cases were imported from KwaZulu-Natal.

The SA Medical Research Council confirmed confirmation of the cholera strain in the Jukskei River downstream from Alexandra on Thursday.

The strain was discovered during a routine test of the river on Tuesday.

The Johannesburg Unicity said in a statement that it was working closely with the provincial government to reduce the chance of transmission and to educate the Alexandra communities on the disease.

"Sewerage systems in the Alexandra area are being checked and the frequency of servicing chemical toilets and related maintenance has been increased."

First Urban River to Test Positive

Meanwhile, other rivers and dams in Gauteng were constantly being monitored, some of them on a daily basis.

Apart from the Jukskei River, all other water sources have tested negative so far.

The Jukskei River is the first river in an urban area to test positive.

Several major rivers in KwaZulu-Natal have tested positive and in Mpumalanga the Elands River and the Crocodile River were both treated as infected after a cholera outbreak in areas around Nelspruit in which about 30 people had to be hospitalised. - Sapa