25/01/2018 13:57 SAST | Updated 25/01/2018 13:57 SAST

Water Crisis Plus Health Crisis – Cape Town's Double Whammy

While Day Zero could leave Cape Town thirsty, it could also exacerbate the current disease headache already plaguing the city's health department.

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Cape Town is battling a double setback: with not just the water crisis to deal with, but also a rise in disease outbreaks and increasing contamination of water in lakes.

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With the threat of Day Zero looming, the city's health department will have to deal with environmental issues and potentially harmful diseases.

Read: Dear Capetonians: Here's How To Survive Day Zero

Toxic contamination in Wildevoëlvlei

The city of Cape Town has already advised residents and visitors to avoid contact with Wildevloëlvlei in Noordhoek Valley, because of elevated toxin levels. The water is contaminated by high levels of a species of blue-green algae (Cyanophyceae), which has the potential to produce toxins that can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested.

"Anyone who comes into direct contact with the blue-green algae should wash immediately with clean water. If any symptoms present, seek medical advice immediately", said councillor Suzette Little.

"The public is urged to avoid all contact with the water at the vlei, in the outlet channel leading to the sea, and discharging on a section of Noordhoek Beach."

Disease outbreaks

Health officials are already dealing with the annual "diarrhoea season", and there has also been an increase in other serious diseases like typhoid, diphtheria and measles, as well as the incidents of listeriosis nationwide.

According to eNCA, JP Smith, a mayoral committee member for safety and security and for social services, said: "All these diseases present a significant and costly challenge to the city. Not only are staff and resources under pressure, but the outbreak of any disease also puts lives and livelihoods at risk."

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While Smith said the disease outbreaks were not related to the drought, "the city needed to ensure that health and hygiene standards were retained".

Here are some of the diseases to be on the lookout for. Smith advised anyone who has any of these symptoms to see healthcare officials as soon as possible.

Typhoid: Typhoid is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi. Individuals infected can spread it through contaminated food or drink. Symptoms include fever, stomach pains and sometimes a rash. It can be prevented with good hand hygiene – washing your hands before touching food – and safe food preparation.

Diphtheria: Diphtheria is spread from person to person through "droplet spread" by an infected person; coughing puts a fine mist of infected saliva into the air, which infects others when they breathe it in. Patients have flu-like symptoms, a sore throat and/or swollen neck. Swallowing and breathing may also be obstructed.

Listeria: Listeria is a food-borne disease caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. It is spread through the consumption of contaminated food. The most common foods it can be found in are vegetables, unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses, processed foods and smoked fish.

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According to TimesLive, a deadly new fungus which kills half the people it infects has also been found in Western Cape

The fungus, Emergomyces africanus, has reportedly been found in 10 percent of air samples collected over 50 weeks on a rooftop in Bellville, Cape Town, and in soil samples collected from 11 locations between Simon's Town and Kleinmond.