With nearly 200,000 cases of diarrheal disease reported as of mid-May in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare and surrounding areas, which have resulted in some 200 deaths, health officials are looking at sources like lack of potable water and a plethora of street food vendors.

Zimbabwe map/CIA

According to the Zimbabwe news source, News Day,  a recent weekly disease surveillance report from the Ministry of Health for the week ending May 17, indicated there were 9,985 cases of diarrhea reported in that week and six deaths.

In addition to the problem with diarrheal diseases, typhoid fever cases are also flourishing in the capital. For the week ending May 17, there were 36 new suspected cases of typhoid, and 33 of those were in Harare with the remaining from Nyanga district.

Since the beginning of the year there has been 301 confirmed typhoid and 559 suspected cases.

Health officials are advising the public to exercise restraint and not buy food from the street because no one knows how it is prepared or if it is under the required conditions.

Typhoid fever is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. 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 food or 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 antibioticsusually begin to feel better within 2 to 3 days.

Learn more about typhoid fever in this educational video