Tag: KwaZulu-Natal

NICD Issues Lassa Fever Alert over KZN Case

Lassa virus scanning electron micrograph
Scanning electron micrograph of Lassa virus budding off a Vero cell. Image credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH

The National Institute for Communicable diseases has reported that a case of Lassa fever was diagnosed in a man from KwaZulu-Natal on 12 May 2022. The man had extensive travel history in Nigeria before returning to South Africa. He fell ill after entering South Africa and was hospitalised in a Pietermaritzburg hospital. The diagnosis of Lassa fever was confirmed by lab tests. Sadly, the man succumbed to the infection.

Contact tracing and monitoring is underway. No secondary cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed at the time of this report. In February 2022, three cases of Lassa fever had been reported in the UK, with the first travelling from Mali and the other two resulting from secondary transmission.

Originally discovered in 1969, Lassa fever is a rodentborne viral haemorrhagic fever endemic to West African countries and is caused by Lassa virus. Up to 300 000 cases of Lassa fever, with about 5000 deaths, are recorded annually in the endemic countries. Currently there is no vaccine for Lassa fever. The clinical course of Lassa fever is either not recognised or mild in 80% of patients; however, about 20% of patients might experience severe disease, including facial swelling, hepatic and renal abnormalities, pulmonary oedema, and haemorrhage. Although overall case-fatality rates for patients with Lassa fever is about 1%, rates among hospitalised case-patients are >15%. Intravenous administration of the antiviral drug ribavirin has become the standard of care for treatment of Lassa fever, but data on the efficacy of intravenous ribavirin are limited. The original study among Lassa fever patients in Sierra Leone found survival to be significantly higher (p = 0.0002) among those who obtained ribavirin within the first 6 days of illness (55%) compared with those who never received the drug (5%). 

The natural reservoir of this virus in endemic countries is the Mastomys rat. The rats are persistently infected, shedding the virus in their urine and faeces. Humans can come into contact with the virus through direct contact or inhalation of the virus in areas that are infested with the infected rats. For example, contact with contaminated materials, ingestion of contaminated food or inhalation of air that has been contaminated with urine droplets. Person-to-person transmission of the virus does not occur readily and the virus is not spread through casual contact.

Person-to-person transmission is not common and is mostly associated with the hospital-setting where healthcare workers have contact with the infected blood and bodily fluids of a patient. Cases of Lassa fever in travellers returning from endemic countries are reported from time-to-time. In 2007 a case of Lassa fever was diagnosed in South Africa. That case involved a Nigerian citizen with extensive travel history in rural parts of Nigeria before falling ill, and he received medical treatment in South Africa. There were no reported secondary cases of Lassa fever on this occasion. Recently, in February 2022, an imported case of Lassa fever with secondary cases were identified in the United Kingdom.

Source: NICD

Dozens of Healthcare Facilities Damaged in KZN Floods

A destroyed house in eThekwini. Credit: Nokulunga Majola/GroundUp

The floods which have inundated KwaZulu-Natal this week and prompted the declaration of a national state of disaster, have damaged at least 58 healthcare facilities. So far, the floods have claimed the lives of 443 people, with 63 still missing.

Damage has been sustained to the roofs, floors and fencing of healthcare facilties, the KwaZulu-Natal health department said. Water shortages from infrastructure damage had forced some hospitals to divert patients elsewhere. Environmental health practitioners are monitoring clinical data for early identification of any waterborne diseases.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said there had been an influx of patients due to the torrential rains.

“We can confirm that our hospitals and clinics have been seeing a higher number of trauma and emergency patients than usual, particularly in the densely populated districts,” she said.

Simelane thanked the courage and dedication of the province’s healthcare workers, noting that many had simply put in extra hours to compensate. Damage to infrastructure such as roads meant that some healthcare workers have had to sleep at the facilities, she noted. Other facilities will try and provide accommodation for them.

To cope with the strain on morgues, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said: “We have mobilised additional resources, including seven doctors, to ensure that post mortems are completed speedily, in order to avoid congestion and to enable those who are grieving to bury their loved ones. Our officials are constantly monitoring the situation and sending bodies to those facilities that do have space.”

“All the resources allocated for flood relief and the recovery and rebuilding process will be utilised in line with fiscal rectitude, accountability, transparency and openness. We want to emphasise the fact that, having learnt lessons of Covid-19, no amount of corruption, maladministration and fraud will be tolerated or associated with this province,” Premier Zikalala said.

Source: IOL

Wastewater Analysis Shows KZN in Third Wave

Image source: CDC/Unsplash

Viral load analysis of wastewater suggests that KwaZulu-Natal may already have entered the third wave of COVID infections, according to research by DUT.

The Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology, based at DUT, has been monitoring viral loads of wastewater at the central treatment plant in eThekwini since July 2020, and found a clear correlation between clinical cases and viral loads detected in wastewater.

While clinical cases were reported to be on the increase in KZN since April 20 this year, they had found an increase in wastewater viral load some three weeks earlier.

The Institute for Water and Wastewater noted that the peak of the COVID second wave in South Africa occurred in January with an average of 40 000 cases in KwaZulu-Natal.

Over this period, the researchers measured average viral loads of 4.72 log copies per 100 millilitres at the central wastewater treatment plant. However, over the last four weeks, viral loads have averaged 5.57 log copies per 100 millilitres.

This has led the institute to suggest that there are far more cases than have been reported clinically, with a significant presence of asymptomatic individuals.

A report [PDF] on the third wave by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases indicated that there was a seroprevalence for SARS-CoV-2, a proxy for previous infection, of 30% to 40% after the third wave. This indicates that COVID infections were already widespread, and lends credence to the institute’s notion of extremely widespread asymptomatic cases. Projections for KZN showed a much lower peak for hospital admissions.

Source: Durban University of Technology