Tap water is safe to drink, says City

The City says messages circulating on WhatsApp warning the public not to drink municipal tap water are fake news.

An increase in cases of diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, especially among children, can be linked to the warmer weather and not municipal tap water, which remains safe to drink, says the City.

Western Cape Health Department spokeswoman Natalie Watlington says the hotter weather is to blame for an increase in cases of diarrhoea and dehydration. Annually, from November to March, there is usually an increase in children and some adults seeking treatment for diarrhoeal disease, she says.

“As we enter February, which is usually the hottest month, the department is advising adults to be extra watchful over children. When your child has a runny tummy, he or she may have diarrhoea,” said Ms Watlington.

Unclean hands could spread viruses that caused diarrhoea, and during hot summer days, food could easily get spoilt. If eaten, it could cause diarrhoea, which could lead to dehydration, and because children could dehydrate very quickly, it could be life-threatening said Ms Watlington.

The City’s health department said messages circulating on WhatsApp warning the public not to drink municipal tap water were fake news.

The messages were also inaccurately linking an outbreak of typhoid fever in the Western Cape to the tap water, said mayoral committee member for water Zahid Badroodien. He assured the public that the water was safe to drink.

“The City continually monitors drinking water to ensure it complies with the strict requirements of the South African National Drinking Water Standard (SANS241).”

All drinking water samples tested last week complied with the standard and posed no health risk to the public, he said.

The City also blamed the hot conditions for the increase in cases of diarrhoea and vomiting among children.

Ms Watlington advised parents to start their children on a “replacement oral rehydration solution” – given in small sips in a cup or feeding bottle – as soon as they noticed they had a loose stool.

The solution can be made at home by boiling a litre of water, letting it cool down and then adding eight tablespoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to the water.

“You can also mix a small amount of juice with the solution or add a small amount of the cool drink you usually make to the solution. If this does not work and the child is still not taking in fluids or vomiting all fluids they do drink, please go to a clinic so that we can help to prevent severe dehydration.”

A child with diarrhoea should continue to be fed with small, frequent snacks, Ms Watlington said.

Parents and caregivers could boost children’s health further by ensuring they received their routine immunisations and were fed with breast milk for as long as possible.

Kitchens should be kept clean by using warm water and soap to wash surfaces, and children should be taught to wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating, Ms Watlington added.

Patricia van der Ross, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said it was important to prepare and store food safely and practise good hand hygiene at all times.

It is important to immediately seek medical help for your child if you notice blood in their nappy or when they use the toilet, vomiting, an inability to drink or breastfeed, tremors or shakes, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and if they are not as alert as usual.

To report concerns about municipal water quality, call 0860 103 089, visit www.capetown.gov.za/servicerequests, email water@capetown.gov.za, SMS 31373 or visit your nearest municipal office.