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Water contamination in the North West province of South Africa has led to a diarrhea outbreak that killed three infants and sent dozens more to hospital, local media reports said.
Officials with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed to reporters that the source of contamination in the town of Bloemhof had been identified through water sampling and analysis. Water supplies to the town were cut off and hundreds of residents with symptoms of cholera were examined in local medical centers after the start of the outbreak last week. All residents in the area were strongly advised to boil water before drinking it, while a team of engineers and environmental officers visited the town to evaluate the situation.
Water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane visited Bloemhof and pointed out that a large proportion of the province needed a comprehensive upgrade of water infrastructure. Tebogo Lekgethwane, spokesman for the North West health department, commented that clinics in the town experienced a shortage of medicines during the first couple of days but the situation was resolved as the number of people in need of treatment subsided. Lekgethwane told reporters that even though some of the people treated had symptoms of cholera, the disease could only be confirmed through lab tests. The contamination could have been caused by a ruptured sewage pipe, he added.