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Monday, 13 November 2023 15:03

Correctional Services outlines measures to prevent spread of diphtheria.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) says it is taking strict measures to prevent and control the spread of Diphtheria at the Pollsmoor Correctional Facility in Western Cape.

This after a 19-year-old inmate died and eight other inmates tested positive for the contagious bacterial infection at the Correctional Centre facility.

Thobakgale briefed the media on Monday morning following the diphtheria outbreak at Pollsmoor Correctional Facility in the Western Cape.

"We would like to assure the public and stakeholders that we are taking proactive measures to address and contain any possible spread of the disease. The epidemiological investigation on the index case is still ongoing.

"Recognising the potential risks associated with communal living, we have implemented a comprehensive set of measures to mitigate the spread of the disease within the correctional setting.

"We are doing this because we also know that [a] Diphtheria outbreak in a correctional environment requires a coordinated and comprehensive response in order to contain the spread and provide appropriate medical care to the affected individuals," he said.

Thobakgale outlined the measures taken which include:

  • Vaccination campaign: The department has initiated a vaccination campaign to ensure that all eligible individuals receive the Diphtheria vaccine. A total of 342 inmates have been vaccinated. In terms of officials, the department stands at 36.
  • Hygiene practices: Inmates and staff members are once more being educated and encouraged to practice enhanced hygiene, including regular handwashing with soap and water, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and the use of hand sanitizers. Facilities are being deep cleaned in an effort to minimize the risk of disease transmission. This involves pest control.
  • Isolation: according to Thobakgale, direct contacts are  “effectively on day 16 of isolation”. Appropriate medical care is also provided to those classified as high risk.
  • Regular Health screenings: Inmates and staff members are now subjected to regular health screenings to detect any potential cases early to enable DCS to prevent the spread of the disease and be ready to deal with new infections should they emerge.
  • Medical attention: Health care professionals are available and are treating affected inmates. Appropriate medical treatment is also being offered. The Department of Health is also working closely with DCS in this regard thus ensuring a comprehensive response plan.

"We are leaving nothing to chance, health education efforts to inform inmates, DCS officials and service providers about the symptoms of Diphtheria, the importance of vaccination, and preventive measures are being amplified. Our health care team is vigilant in monitoring the situation and the infection prevention measures are for every individual in a correctional facility to follow through.

"The situation is calm and under control. No new cases have been reported in the past five days. Hence, we do believe that the measures that we have put in place shall be effective in ensuring the well-being of everyone in our care," he said.

Diphtheria is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening bacterial infection of the respiratory tract.

The Health Department said the bacteria spreads from person to person, usually through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing.

“The symptoms of diphtheria include sore throat (with the formation of a membrane on the tonsil and throat), and swollen glands in the front of the neck. Close contacts of known cases are at increased risk of infection."