Written by By Laura Cadigan, CNN
Following news of a cluster of kidney stones in South Africa, about 1,700 cases of a similar ailment that causes severe kidney damage have been reported on the country’s health websites since Tuesday.
The most recent wave of patients — recorded by the South African National Patient Safety Agency (SNPA) and Health Omicron — has quadrupled the recorded number of confirmed cases, in total, since the the first came to light on January 20th.
Garry Abliatti, executive director of Health Omicron, said the conditions could be traced back to February 1. “When we started this investigation, we suspected that three or four people might be affected, we were very quickly told that nine people had been affected in isolation (in December) and another three were involved in a clinical trial conducted on March 14,” he said.
Garry Abliatti, executive director of Health Omicron, says the stone surge is due to the national water and sanitation crisis. Credit: Andrew Medichini/AP
Since then, Abliatti has warned that further cases could come in due to the onset of spring, and peak times of the fertility season.
In the past, many patients who had initially shown up at hospitals were discharged with painkillers but no kidney complications.
However, Health Omicron has found that some hospital staff started prescribing dialysis, something the other patient safety agency — the Safety and Quality of Health and Family Planning Office (SWSAM) — previously had denied as a possible cause of the kidney stones.
Abliatti also said that the influx of such patients had resulted in a spike in the cost of drugs prescribed for the stones. On his agency’s website, he also said that more must be done to educate South Africans about preventive measures — including routine bathing, and avoiding excess salt and carbohydrate intake.