Football Sport

Threat of typhoid fever at sports facilities

Doctor’s Corner with JOSEPH KABUNGO
SPORTS facilities serve as places where mostly young people get together and enjoy playing different kinds of sport.
It is vital that the risk of injury is drastically reduced and also the response to any emergencies that might arise is taken care of.
It is also a prerequisite for a sports facility to have safe drinking water.
However, the only available water source at a training facility can be contaminated and this can be a source of many waterborne diseases such as dysentery and cholera.
It is from this angle that I will go through some important things to note on typhoid fever at sports facilities.
After successfully commemorating the World Malaria Day on April 25, it is important that typhoid fever is also looked at as another problem of public health concern.
Typhoid fever has become a day-to-day problem in some parts of our country.
Typhoid fever outbreaks have been reported at some sports training facilities within and outside Lusaka.
This problem has been discussed time and again by many stakeholders and the emphasis has been put on food safety and the provision of adequate and safe drinking water.
Safe drinking water in this case refers to clean, non-contaminated water from the source to consumption.
Typhoid has always been linked to poor living conditions and hence the need to critically look into the source of the drinking water for our sports men at various sports facilities.
Young people are always engaging in sport and water is the actual fuel for exercise.
The question is what is the source of drinking water for many sports teams? Are they able to afford mineral water, which is well treated and therefore carries little or no risk of waterborne diseases?
Water is always taken on a daily basis and its source is of importance.
Most sportsmen in established training facilities will argue they get water from taps presumed to be well treated at treatment plants.
Water utility companies are tasked to provide safe drinking water to communities.
In as much as they are doing their best to provide safe drinking water to various communities, the issue of water contamination at any stage cannot be given a blind eye.
A week ago my friend Oscar Tembo brought up one subject of food poisoning that occurred during a tournament during our time at the University Of Zambia.
It was at this point that the subject of typhoid fever was brought up.
He was basically concerned about the outcome of a patient with typhoid fever and what probably the complications where in that respect.
I responded that typhoid fever should not really be fatal if medical attention is sought in good time and a correct diagnosis is made before any complications could arise.
The worry with my friend was establishing the potential sources of infection and what needs to be done in order for infection to be prevented.
Two years ago, I got disturbing reports about cases of typhoid fever at one of the Football Association of Zambia registered clubs in Lusaka.
The good part was that the authorities were able to move in quickly and found that the water at their training facility which they use, was actually contaminated.
However, before the team management could move in, they had already got three players who were treated for malaria during the same period but the response was very poor.
It was only when they did other laboratory investigations that they were able to identify the typhoid bacillus as the cause of all illness which the players were suffering from.
This prompted them to do a mass screening for the team and a lot were found to be harboring the typhoid bacillus, though they had no symptoms at all.
This prompted me to start thinking that, suppose the team had no capacity to take all its players for medical screening, what could have happened to these young soccer players?
My colleague Dr Mwila Lupasha from the University Teaching Hospital also told me that he has seen quite a good number of typhoid cases in the past and some have ended up having surgery because of the complications associated with this condition.
After observing all these happenings just within Lusaka, it is quite evident that there is a lot going on around us, especially at training facilities where players are subjected to drinking water, which is coming directly from the taps.
The first observation is the type of container that is being used by teams when they are in training and competitive games.
It can be seen that the basic rules of hygiene are actually far from being realized.
This is not only a potential site for typhoid, but also many infections, which can be passed on from one individual to the other.
A bacteria known as salmonella Typhi cause typhoid fever, and others are Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium.
Just like in the case, which has been outlined, typhoid fever can actually be mistaken to be a malaria infection, until adequate laboratory investigations are done.
Typhoid fever can present itself with high fever just like malaria.
The other symptoms include poor appetite, headaches, diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pains, chest congestion and mild vomiting.
The affected individual will feel weak and will find it difficult to cope with the demands of training.
It can be seen that the symptoms will actually be very diverse and in some individuals certain symptoms will be more pronounced, than in others.
In light skinned individuals skin manifestations on the chest and abdomen can actually be seen.
If typhoid goes untreated it can result in weight loss, severe diarrhoea and severe constipation.
If the diagnosis is delayed and no treatment given then other complications, which include intestinal perforation, can occur and this can actually be fatal.
For sportsmen and women, prevention of typhoid fever and other water borne diseases is of importance.
Simple prevention of typhoid fever include drinking boiled water, avoiding ice cubes unless the ice is made from bottled or boiled water.
It is always important to eat food that has been thoroughly cooked and that is still hot and steaming.
Foodstuffs and beverages from street vendors have to be avoided at all costs. Vaccination against typhoid fever is another option, but simple observation of the basic rules pertaining to drinking water and food will be cheap and adequate as a preventive strategy.
It is important that all sports facilities were athletes train from must observe the basic rules of hygiene to avoid having an outbreak of typhoid fever and other water borne diseases.
For questions and comments write to Dr Kabungo Joseph Email: or

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