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Spike in Covid cases as Zambia battles cholera outbreak

Deleted: While still battling to control a massive cholera outbreak, Zambia has also activated Covid-19 monitoring systems after registering an increase in new cases, with two deaths linked to the virus.

Zambian Health Minister Sylvia Masebo said the positivity rate for those being tested had increased to above 6%, reports News24.

“Currently, we have seven patients with Covid-19 in our admission facilities,” she said.

Dr Kennedy Lishimpi, permanent secretary for technical services at the Zambian Health Ministry, has contacted provincial health directors advising them about the emerging Covid-19 situation.

During the first week of January, at least 110 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded, he said.

The Ministry has instructed the use of the antiviral drug Remdesivir as a secondary treatment, “depending on age, renal function and concomitant drugs”.

Otherwise, Nirmatrelvir/Ritonavir can be used “only for those with risk factors for progression to severe disease”.

The Health Ministry discouraged the use of antibiotics like Azithromycin and Cefalexin, saying “evidence has shown that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics … is not only ineffective but also contributes to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance”.

Meanwhile, 10 000 people have been infected by the cholera outbreak that has killed at least 432 people since October.

A vaccination campaign targeting 1.5m people is currently under way, with efforts being stepped up to try to halt the spread.

In partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Unicef and others, the World Health Organisation is supporting the government to roll out the oral vaccination campaign and bolster ongoing outbreak control measures.

More than 1.4m vaccine doses have already been delivered to the country, with another 200 000 additional doses having been approved by the WHO International Co-ordinating Group on Vaccine Provision.

The government declared the new outbreak in October 2023, and by last week, 10 887 cases had been reported across nine of the 10 provinces.

Cases are spreading fast, with authorities recording an average of 461 new cases every 24 hours over the past seven days.

The rapid spread and the increasing number of reported cases suggest this may be one of the worst outbreaks in Zambia’s recent history. Densely populated areas with limited or no access to clean water, sanitation services and poor hygiene practices are facing a higher incidence of the disease.

WHO has deployed 23 experts from its Regional Office for Africa to support emergency coordination, case management, surveillance, infection prevention and control, bolster water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as increase public awareness on the risks of the disease.

The agency also provided more than 14 tons of cholera kits and additional medical supplies to the government. Additional supplies and equipment, including cholera beds, are being delivered shortly.

The government has activated high-level outbreak response coordinated by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, providing water tanks to supply communities with clean drinking water, establishing oral rehydration points in markets, churches and bus stops for access to early treatment, and public health campaigns to promote hygiene practices.

Additionally, cholera treatment centres have been set up to provide medical care for severe cases.

A similar outbreak resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands of hospital admissions in neighbouring Zimbabwe late last year saw a state of emergency being declared by the government and predictions from health experts that infections were likely to jump borders.

 

News24 article – Zambia issues new Covid-19 treatment guidelines as cases rise, amid an ongoing cholera outbreak (Open access)

 

WHO Africa article – Zambia races to curb fast-spreading cholera outbreak (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Zimbabwe cholera outbreak worsens

 

Zimbabwe declares state of emergency over cholera outbreak

 

Military pulls back in Zambia’s fight against cholera

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