Cases of diarrhoea increases in Cape metro

The City of Cape Town has appealed to parents and caregivers to be on alert after the municipality recorded more than 7 500 cases of diarrhoea in children younger than five over November and December 2023.

This is an increase from 5 370 reported cases (up by 40%) over the same period the year before.

Young children are particularly vulnerable from dehydration associated with diarrhoea. If not treated timeously, it can be fatal. The period between November and May is dubbed Surge Season, as it coincides with an increase in diarrheal disease.

ILLUSTRATION: Mitchum George

Mayoral Committee Member (MMC) for Community Services and Health, Patricia van der Ross, said the risk of diarrhoea can be minimised by regular and thorough handwashing.

‘’The statistics serve as a reminder of just how serious we all need to take surge season, especially with the prevailing high temperatures. At the first sign of diarrhoea, start using an oral rehydration solution immediately, and seek medical help. Handwashing and hygiene are always important, but become even more critical over the warmer months to prevent the spread of germs. And we need to be cognisant, always, of how we handle food, because it can spoil a lot quicker in the heat. Let's work together and keep surge season top of mind, particularly where our young children are concerned.’’

The World Health Organisation provide tips to safer food, namely:

·        Keep hands, surfaces and utensils used for food preparation including baby bottles and teats , clean.

·        Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet and after changing the child's nappies.

·        Wash hands often while cooking and preparing baby feeds as well as before eating and feeding young children.

·        Separate raw and cooked: Store raw and cooked food in separate containers and use separate utensils and equipment for raw and cooked food.

·        Cook thoroughly: Cook all foods thoroughly and reheat to piping hot before serving.

·        Keep food at safe temperatures: Store and thaw foods in the fridge.

·        Use safe water and raw materials: Use safe water, fresh fruit, vegetables and pasteurised milk. Store water in a container that has a tap. If not available, use a clean bucket with a lid.


The City advised to administer an oral rehydration solution immediately, should a child develops loose stools.

‘’Add half a level teaspoon of salt and eight level teaspoons of sugar to one litre of cooled water that has been boiled. Start giving the child small sips of the solution to replace the water and electrolytes lost in the faeces/stool. Take the child to your nearest clinic immediately so that the healthcare workers can help to prevent severe dehydration.’’

Symptoms of dehydration include passing little urine, dry mouth, few tears when crying, sunken eyes and weakness.

Symptoms of severe dehydration are drowsiness, pale/mottled skin, cold hands or feet, dry nappies, fast and shallow breathing.


Done By: Mitchum George


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