Cholera threat a serious concern

EVEN though additional tests still need to be taken, it is a matter of concern that the vibrio cholerae bacteria was found in water and soil samples at Medolino Caravan Park.

The Rhodes University scientist who took the samples speaks in terms of percentages, and stressed his results needed to be verified, but even a 66% to 77% likelihood that the cholera bug is present is scary.

A pharmaceutical biochemistry research scientist, Roman Tandlich, was circumspect about his findings, saying he did not want to cause a panic. But he did advise that people not come into contact with damp soil and pools of water still lying in the Medolino valley.

The 17.2ha area which was flooded includes part of the Royal Port Alfred Golf Course, which Tandlich also visited, and concerns were expressed over stagnant smelly water on one of the fairways.

Floodwater which lay in the valley for weeks was polluted by sewage from a pump station which stopped working, and Tandlich’s initial tests revealed a dangerously high e-coli count in the floodwater of more than 100 000 cells per 100ml.

He said vibrio cholerae could mutate and survive in moisture and damp soil, especially if sunlight did not reach it. There have been cases of diarrhoea, vomiting and skin rashes since the flood, but Tandlich could not say for sure whether the cholera bug caused it.

Nonetheless he did say precautions need to be taken and people with symptoms should see a doctor.

It is disturbing that a Rhodes scientist had to take these tests on a voluntary basis, doing that the municipality should have done, and that it should be left to him to issue a warning, however circumspect.

The municipality’s department of community protection services should have been more proactive, doing the necessary tests and issuing necessary warnings. It is their responsibility as the guardian of public health at the local level.

Considering the widespread sewage spills on residential properties in Marselle, the municipality should also be concerned about contamination there. Raw sewage pooled in yards where children play.

Tandlich has taken additional samples in the Medolino area to verify his findings, and said he would also submit his results to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF).

He does not have the budget for more comprehensive tests which he said cost between R10 000 and R20 000, but councillor Ross Purdon said this is where DWAF needs to step in.

If they do not, he will push for the municipality to spend the money on the tests.

– Jon Houzet

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