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Media Release: Putting the cholera outbreak into perspective for travellers

Date: 29th January 2009

The countries body for organised tourism business, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said in a statement that the insinuation that the whole of South Africa is experiencing the cholera outbreak is false.

The country's body for organised tourism business, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said in a statement that the insinuation that the whole of South Africa is experiencing the cholera outbreak is false.

This according to Mmatšatši Marobe, Chief Executive Officer of the TBCSA who said that the matter needs to be put into proper perspective in the interest of safe travelling. “The impression been created with the wide spread attention given to this matter is that South Africa and indeed the entire SADC region is “awash” with cholera which is damaging to the travel industry” says Marobe. While it is true that the northern most town of Musina in South Africa was hit by sudden outbreak of cholera in the last few months, the situation became critical when sick people begun pouring into the town from neighbouring Zimbabwe due to its close proximity to the border at Beitbridge.“It is therefore important to put the matter into perspective as not to scare off our visitors, but also give facts around what is happening.”

Marobe said the collapse of social services and other amenities especially the health system in Zimbabwe is one of the reasons many people are receiving treatment in South Africa. “However people must take note that at this stage no tourist has been reported ill of cholera or any related pandemic – because the outbreak is only contained in a small area.”

Using information from both the National and Limpopo Health Departments, she said what is pleasing is the fact that the South African government has placed the cholera issue high on its agenda. “The cabinet has discussed the issue at length...and precautionary measures have been put in place to deal with the pandemic.”

Environmental risk assessment

“In response to the outbreak the Department of Health has deployed its National Outbreak Response Team in Musina and all the way to Beitbridge. “The environmental risk assessment was made with additional environmental and health practitioners brought to Musina in an effort to reduce the spread to other areas.”

According to Marobe at this stage there is no indication of severe cases in other parts of the country which means there is no risk for travellers, measures have also been taken throughout the country by putting in place Cholera Alert and contingency for strengthening Emergency Preparedness Response activities, Marobe said.”

For those who are planning to travel, “South Africa is still ‘a value for money’ destination with a high standard of accommodation, hygiene, sanitation and clean tap water which reduces the risk of infections. However, it remains important that travellers should take precautionary measures.”

The Health Department has issued advise and the risk of becoming infected can be prevented through vaccination. “General precautions can greatly reduce the risk of exposure to infectious agents and should always be taken for visits and destinations where there is a significant risk of exposure.

It is also important that these precautions should be taken regardless of whether any vaccination or medication has been administered.”

In accordance with Health Department advisories, Marobe said it is important for travellers to prepare their trip well in advance. This can be done by following the following guidelines:

  • Visit your travel clinic, doctor or practice nurse at least 6-10 weeks before you leave to check on immunisation requirements. If you are travelling for more than a month, see them earlier.
  • Make use of bottled water and carry oral rehydration salts to combat dehydration in case of severe diarrhoea.
  • Discuss Cholera/Malaria requirements and sort out with your travel clinic, GP, practice nurse or pharmacist your required medication.
  • Sort out your first aid kit and any medication you might need – including enough prescription medication for the trip.
  • Read up about your chosen destination to learn about the culture, laws and customs.
  • Check that your passport is valid and does not expire before you return.
  • Check on visa requirements for your chosen destination.

For more health advisory, please visit www.southafrica.net for travel tips to South Africa.

Article courtesy of Tourism Business Council of South Africa

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