Reports say more than 350 people have been treated for diarrhoea in Vryheid, a small mining town in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, within a week.

Acting head of KwaZulu-Natal Health Department Dr Musa Gumede says 35 patients have been admitted to hospital.

People experiencing symptoms of diarrhoea are flocking to Mason Clinic, Bekhuzulu Clinic and Vryheid hospital.

Gumede says health facilities have admitted approximately seven new patients per day since last week.

He states that there are no signs of cholera so far.

“We have treated them in line with the protocol of any diarrhoea which is likely to be caused by cholera or any other form of diarrhoeal disease.

“We’ve also taken stool and water samples to check if there are any bacteria that can be identified. The first batch of tests have returned; they have not indicated any cholera. We are waiting for the water samples to confirm whether it has found any bacteria as a cause of the diarrhoea,” Gumede said.

He urged residents to continue to boil water before consuming it, as well as buying bottled water to prevent cholera and other water borne diseases.

 “The majority of patients we are seeing are coming to Bekhuzulu Clinic, so we are targeting that area to make sure that they get safe, clean water because it seems to be the epicentre. We hope that the communities around are boiling water or buying bottled water,” he added.

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if untreated.

It is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae.