By Ragheema Mclean
The Western Cape Health Department has reassured the public that there is no cause for panic in the wake of the recent Diphtheria outbreak at Pollsmoor prison.
This comes as a 19-year-old inmate died on Sunday after experiencing symptoms of the infection a week earlier. Eight more inmates are said to have tested positive, with only two experiencing mild symptoms.
According to the National Health Department, Diphtheria is an uncommon disease caused by a bacteria called Corynebacterium Diphtheria. The bacterium usually affects the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, causing respiratory and skin infections.
Speaking on the VOC Breakfast show on Tuesday, Health Department spokesperson Foster Mohale emphasized that while Diphtheria is considered an uncommon disease, it remains preventable and manageable through proper treatment protocols.
Mohale noted that the prevalence of such contagious diseases in prisons often poses a particular risk, especially among younger inmates.
The bacteria spreads from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, he noted.
“Diphtheria spreads similarly to Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases, primarily through coughing and sneezing when an infected individual fails to cover their mouth.”
Mohale said that the symptoms of Diphtheria often include a sore throat with the formation of a membrane on the tonsil and throat and swollen glands in the front of the neck.
“Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms are strongly urged to seek immediate medical attention to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment,” he continued.
Furthermore, to mitigate the spread of the disease within Pollsmoor Prison, health officials have commenced a vaccination drive targeting both inmates and staff members.
Healthcare workers have also been urged to maintain a high index of suspicion in order to ensure that cases are detected early, while all individuals are reminded of the importance of ensuring that they and their families are up to date with their vaccinations.