In a press statement issued yesterday, the Minister of Health, Hon. Sylvia T. Masebo, provided a comprehensive update on the current cholera situation in Zambia, emphasizing the government’s robust response to the outbreak that has affected numerous communities.
Over the past 24 hours, Zambia recorded 431 new cholera cases across six provinces. Lusaka Province remains the most affected, contributing 381 of the new cases. The total number of patients admitted across the country has risen to 859, with a slight increase from the previous day. Regrettably, 11 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, with nine in Lusaka Province and two in Central Province.
At the Hero’s Stadium cholera treatment center in Lusaka, there are currently 576 patients, including 247 males, 136 females, and 193 children. Despite the challenges, the center made 130 discharges within the last 24 hours while losing three adult patients, including one with severe COVID pneumonia and cholera, who was transferred to Levy Treatment Center.
Minister Masebo also revealed that Zambia has collaborated with international partners WHO and UNICEF to secure cholera vaccines to augment ongoing control measures. Approximately 1.6 million doses are expected to arrive in the country in several batches, with an official handover scheduled for Monday, January 15, 2024. The community vaccination efforts will initially focus on hot spots in Lusaka Province, targeting individuals aged one year and above in selected communities.
Minister Masebo said the earlier SI number 79 of 2017 measures were introduced that allowed public health professionals to dispose of the body of a person who died from cholera in conformity with public health regulations. Other measures that are invoked with SI 79 include:
1. Prohibition of funeral gatherings of more than 5 people, if the person being buried from had died of cholera
2. A person who becomes aware or has reason to suspect that another person has died or is suffering from cholera shall immediately inform the nearest authorized officer in a local authority or public health facility
3. Authorized officers may enter any premises to search for a case of cholera or to enquire if there is a case of cholera
4. Authorized officers may prohibit or restrict trading in or vending of food in unsanitary conditions – leading to the closure of premises that do not comply with hygienic practices
5. Authorized officers may order the cleaning or closure of the public premises or burial of any contaminated water body such as the shallow wells that the officer determines that a public premise does not have sufficient sanitation and hygiene to prevent the occurrence or transmission of cholera.
To further address the cholera outbreak, the Public Health (Infected Areas) (Cholera) (Amendment) Regulations for 2024 have been introduced. Among the provisions, the amendment prohibits the entry of bedsides into cholera treatment centers and enhances measures for the safe burial of cholera suspects. Additionally, stringent measures for public health messaging at religious gatherings have been introduced, requiring documentation of the messaging provided.
Minister Masebo urged citizens to adhere to the outlined regulations, emphasizing the importance of collective efforts in combating the outbreak. The government remains dedicated to mitigating the impact of cholera, safeguarding public health, and ensuring a healthier Zambia.
The press statement concluded with gratitude for the media’s attention and a call for everyone to play their part in contributing to a healthier nation.