City of Joburg Mayor Parks Tau has dismissed claims by the Democratic Alliance that bubonic plague has been found in dead rats in Midrand, Gauteng.
This followed reports that the City of Johannesburg was worried about the health and environmental impact of the ongoing strike at waste management entity Pikitup after a rodent tested positive for the dormant plague, Rosebank Killarney Gazette reported.
The rodent was one of 13 taken for testing from Mayibuye, Region A in Johannesburg, and among many hundreds tested annually from across the country as part of routine surveillance.
Tau refuted the claims, saying the party noted the confirmation by the City of Johannesburg and the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD) of dormant bacterium Yersinia pestis – which causes bubonic plague – found in dead rats in Midrand.
DA Johannesburg caucus leader Vasco da Gama said the DA delivered a letter to the mayor and informed him of a dead rat which was discovered on March 16 and sent to the NICD for tests.
“We further presented evidence to the mayor that on March 29, the test results were made known and confirmed that the rat was a carrier of bubonic plague. While the organism could not be isolated in the rat, they confirmed it had been in contact with the plague. The mayor did not deny this information and pledged to inform the public,” Da Gama said.
He said the DA condemned in the strongest terms the fact that Tau and the City of Johannesburg did not inform the public of this incident and spell out exactly what he and the council would do to eradicate any possibility of re-occurrence and contagion.
“The public has a right to know whenever a health threat is picked up, and right now the City of Johannesburg must immediately launch a public information campaign alerting people to the symptoms and treatment instructions. Tau must accept that this is a direct result of the ongoing environmental degradation arising from the prolonged Pikitup strike, which he has failed to contain in his weak attempts at intervention,” said Da Gama.
“He must now decisively deal with the management of Pikitup and have the city cleaned up as a matter of urgency.”
Tau responded: “The briefing by the City, Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and the NICD covered the emphasis on public health risks presented by the existing waste collection backlog, what the City was doing to minimise risks and what role residents needed to play. This was done on 1 April.”
He said the office of the mayor only received a letter from the DA on April 1.
“The letter contained false claims of bubonic plague found in a rat in Johannesburg and a dictionary explanation of the plague,” he added.
Tau said it was important to note that the City had already made a decision to intensify health awareness campaigns, particularly in densely populated areas, a week before the NICD finding was presented to the mayor.
“The health awareness campaigns in densely populated areas were already activated on 25 March, as part of the elevated contingency plan to clean up the City amidst the ongoing illegal work stoppage at Pikitup… It is unfortunate that after the NICD, which conducts the rat tests regularly and are experts on the matter, confirmed that it was not a plague found in the rat, but antibodies to fight the plague, the DA still wants to stir up public panic with inaccurate information,” Tau said.
– Caxton News Service