Officials in the Zimbabwe capital of Harare have confirmed the death of a 12-year-old girl due to likely typhoid, according to local media reports.

Harare
Zimbabwe map/CIA

In addition to the fatality, Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said  as of this afternoon, 39 cases have been recorded. On Christmas Day alone, nine people were admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Blood cultures are still pending for a definitive diagnosis.

Officials are looking at a borehole as the possible source of the outbreak. We are disinfecting the area and dechoking all blocked sewers. We are also encouraging all people with symptoms to visit available medical facilities,” Chideme said.

Typhoid fever, caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi, is a life-threatening bacterial infection. Typhoid fever is still common in the developing world, where it affects about 21 million people annually.

Salmonella typhi lives only in humans. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed S.typhi in their feces.

You can get typhoid fever if you eat foodor drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding S. typhi or if sewage contaminated with S. typhi bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food. Therefore, typhoid fever is more common in areas of the world where handwashing is less frequent and water is likely to be contaminated with sewage.

Typhoid fever can be successfully treated with appropriate antibiotics, and persons given antibiotics usually begin to feel better within 2 to 3 days.

Learn more about typhoid fever in this educational video