MASVINGO – A severe outbreak of dysentery has hit Mutimurefu Prison in Masvingo, claiming the life of one inmate and affecting about 169 others, officials have confirmed.
The outbreak was caused by acute water shortages at the correctional facility.
Health officials said about 129 inmates contracted the disease while at least 39 people from the surrounding community, including prison guards, were also affected.
Kudzanai Masinire, Masvingo acting medical director, told the Daily News that the outbreak was under control as local health officials with the aid of Red Cross International and Zinwa were on the ground treating the affected and monitoring the situation.
“I can confirm the outbreak of the disease and it was caused by perennial water shortages at Mutimurefu,” masinire said.
“Since the outbreak last week, 129 cases from inmates were reported and about 39 from the community. But the situation is under control and we have no new cases this week.”
Masinire said the symptoms pointed to dysentery-shigella, which was caused by shigella flexneri and escherichia coli that were gleaned from inmates’ stools.
The outbreak has claimed the life of a 71-year-old inmate whose name was not given by prison officials.
“We had a death suspected to be a result of the outbreak but we are still finalising our investigations to ascertain whether the case is purely from the outbreak or it was caused by other diseases,” Masinire said.
Jere Ruzive, the Zimbabwe Prison Service Masvingo-Midlands public relations officer, confirmed the outbreak, but refuted the death claims.
“There was an outbreak of the diseases two weeks ago but the situation now is normal and under control,” Ruzive told the Daily News. “However, the death of the inmate is not linked to the outbreak.
He was not feeling well when he came to Mutimurefu and he brought his illness from outside and unfortunately passed away.”
The shortage of water and overcrowding of inmates in cells was said to be spreading the disease fast.
During the height of the economic hardships in 2007 and 2008, several lives were lost after the facility ran out of water and sufficient food for the inmates.
But health officials said they were seriously concerned with the health of inmates and was working tirelessly to normalise the situation at Mutimurefu.
The inmates are suffering from dehydration and excessive loss of fluids and the situation could worsen if the water situation does not improve.