WC Health Dept responds to Diphtheria outbreak

General practitioner, Dr John Sonnenberg, voiced his concern about the lack of communication to the Strand community following an outbreak of Diphtheria, which claimed the life of a 10-year-old.

Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection of the mucous membrane in the throat and nose.

He feels the information was not given to communities timeously.

My major concern is the lack of communication in the midst of this very serious, extremely dangerous illness.

Dr John Sonnenberg, General Practitioner

I was astonished when I read in The Cape Times four days ago that the spokesman to the minister of health services had said she knew about the Diptheria outbreak weeks ago, and when asked why the department had kept quiet about the outbreak, her spokesman said, we did not send out a statement.

Dr John Sonnenberg, General Practitioner

Western Cape Health Department head Dr Beth Engelbrecht says she welcomes the criticism by Dr Sonnenberg, but says their main priority was to immediately respond to the news of the outbreak.

Our main priority is to immediately respond. So when we heard late in the afternoon on 3 August we got the lab confirmation of the case in Helderberg Hospital, I was amazed at the rapidity of our staff.

Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Head of Department at WC Department of Health

She says since the news came out, they have vaccinated more than 600 children and everybody in the area was informed.

She insists everyone in the local area was informed.

Engelbrecht also says the department had to find a balance between being alarmist or providing proper information.

Sonnenberg says he has no complaint about how the department handled the clinical side of the outbreak and says the hospital's procedure was admirable. But he maintains one of the biggest schools in the Somerset West area was not informed.

I am not trying to be dramatic but I have seen with my own eyes many children die of Diphtheria.

Dr John Sonnenberg, General Practitioner

Without being alarmist, he believes the department should have taken the public into its confidence.

Engelbrecht says they drafted a holding statement explaining everything,

Everything was ready and we made the press statement on the 14th when we realised everything was under control.

Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Head of Department at WC Department of Health

The first outbreak was on 3 August and the press statement was released on 14 August and Dr Sonnenberg argues this might have been done sooner.

To hear the rest of the interview, listen below:


CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
"Withdrawal of Mandela book a form of censorship"

"Withdrawal of Mandela book a form of censorship"

UP Publishing professor Beth le Roux argues that Penguin Random House did not have to withdraw the controversial book.

To cover or not to cover? Condoms to be made available to schoolchildren

To cover or not to cover? Condoms to be made available to schoolchildren

The Basic Education Department has revealed that both male and female condoms will be distributed to schoolchildren above 12.

67 free life changing operations for cataracts and hips #MandelaDay

67 free life changing operations for cataracts and hips #MandelaDay

The W Cape health department has initiated 67 additional operations as part of their Mandela Day program.

Here’s why your boep is a red flag

Here’s why your boep is a red flag

A large waist circumference and difficulty shifting belly fat could be an indicator of a series of larger health problems.

WC health department to improve quality of life for 67 people to honour Madiba

WC health department to improve quality of life for 67 people to honour Madiba

Dr Beth Engelbrecht says the department plans to operate on 67 patients for 40 cataract operations and 27 hip replacements.

Cape Town based company offers unique and quality men's clothing

Cape Town based company offers unique and quality men's clothing

Fiction - Lies and Filth has been nominated for the Small Business Awards, for it's wonderful personal touch in men's fashion.

SA eclipses Egypt as Africa's largest economy. Is this good news?

SA eclipses Egypt as Africa's largest economy. Is this good news?

What does it mean now that South Africa has eclipsed Egypt as Africa's largest economy?

Young doctor's "dangerous working hours" forces WC Health to find alternatives

Young doctor's "dangerous working hours" forces WC Health to find alternatives

W Cape Department of Health says they are aware that doctors work long hours and they are looking at doing things differently

'We know people wait in the public health system' says Dr Beth Englebrecht

'We know people wait in the public health system' says Dr Beth Englebrecht

The W Cape Health Department are determined to improve the high waiting times in state hospitals.

Popular articles
Zim ministers snub Mugabe's cabinet meeting call

Zim ministers snub Mugabe's cabinet meeting call

Regional Co-Ordinator at Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition, Joy Mabenge says the keys to Mugabe's impeachment are turning very fast.

Tender irregularities plague City of Cape Town

Tender irregularities plague City of Cape Town

Allegations point to irregularities in the tender processes where some bidders were preferred by the City's senior executives.

What Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Makro will offer on Black Friday

What Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Makro will offer on Black Friday

Up for a Springboks level scrum? Instructions on how to ensure you get the deals in your inbox the moment they become known...

I didn't believe that he was ever going to step down - JJ Cornish

I didn't believe that he was ever going to step down - JJ Cornish

EWN Africa Correspondent, JJ Cornish describes Mugabe's Sunday evening speech as a humiliating downturn for the Zim president.