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It’s been a roller-coaster summer in Cape Town with beautiful weather, little wind and less water. The reality is that this combination with food sources, chicken in particular, under pressure we are seeing an ugly rise in illness. The viral season has started early. Parainfluenza has been around for a few weeks with a snotty nose and croup to follow affecting the little people.

Beware of the midnight bark and that is not braak! RSV, the nasty virus that takes down small and vulnerable chests with viral asthma and snot by the gallon is here early. Respiratory Syncytial Virus can be a killer in ex premature/cardiac or respiratorily compromised babies.

Coxsackievirus has had a fun start to 2018 with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease running riot through creches and playgroups. It is so contagious and yet so variable in its effects. Most importantly, there has been a surge not just in the well-publicised Listeria Monocytogenes with various foods and manufacturers under the cosh, but also in a host of other bacterial gastroenteritis bugs.

Campylobacter jejuni is rife with severe cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea (dysentery). It is a tough bug to isolate and often under treated as poo cultures can take 3-4 days to show up this nasty. Due to its strange cell wall equally, it is difficult to treat with usual broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Salmonella is also popping up in bloody stool samples. Not typhoid but one of its ugly cousins, chicken and eggs are surely to blame for this form of food poisoning. Finally, last week as I thought I had seen it all in terms of nasty gut bugs, I received 2 old but new friends; an Enteropathogenic E. coli and a Shigella Sonnei in 2 separate poo samples.

I can only imagine the pressure in less affluent population groups where access to healthcare and stool culture is limited. My group of patients are a little more well off and I am sure are not eating polony by the kilogram but rather plenty of chicken nuggets and schnitzel from upmarket grocery establishments.

Our guts, our lives and especially our tender children’s low acidity stomachs are being unfairly bombarded and who or what is to blame?

Water or the lack thereof for sure; boreholes, well points, taps chicken and eggs. Disease has lowered their production and pressure to supply must surely increase risks. Expensive life with 2 income families and little kids in creche out of necessity, not by choice. I wish I had a magic political, economic and meteorologic wand to fix it all but sadly not. All I can advise is to think before you drink water and cook all of your food well; rare might be trendy but it’s dangerous.