Diseases and Illnesses

Mseleni Hospital serves 90,000 rural people. There is a wide variety of diseases and illnesses seen and treated, ranging from serious trauma and assault cases to ear infections. Occasionally there are injuries caused by animals. Snake bites are the most common, and there have been a few injuries caused by hippos and crocodiles living in nearby Lake Sibhaya.

There are a number of diseases associated with living in this area, such as Mseleni Joint Disease (MJD) and Malaria. TB and HIV are a real problem; South Africa has the highest occurrence of HIV in the world. There are many cases of Bilharzia due to the number of lakes and water holes.

Mseleni Joint Disease

MJD is a local arthritis. Its cause is unknown, but it affects only people living in the area from the Mozambique border in the north, Tshongwe in the west, Mabibi and Lake Sibhaya in the east and Hluhluwe in the south. The worst affected area is north of the hospital, where 1 in 2 women are affected.

The hips are the most badly affected. 100% of MJD patients have hip problems. The knees are also badly affected, and in some cases the wrists and ankles too.

It is treated with non-steroid containing drugs and anti-inflammatory medication. In many cases, a total hip replacement is needed. This can be carried out at the hospital, and is done under local anaesthetic.


Today, TB is the single biggest killer of people infected with HIV. TB is contracted through droplet infection. The disease cannot last more than 5 minutes in the sun, but while it is in the air it can be breathed in. The mortality rate is 8%. It can be treated, first of all by doing a sputum culture to determine the type of TB the patient has and isolating the patient, and it is possible to cure the patient with medication.


South Africa as a country has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. 1 in 4 people in South Africa are HIV positive. In KwaZulu Natal, that statistic rises to a shocking 1 in 3. These statistics indicate just how big a problem HIV/AIDS is:

  • 30% of student nurses and 7% of doctors are HIV positive.
  • 1 in 3 pregnant women in KZN are HIV positive.
  • Half the babies born to HIV positive mothers are also HIV positive.
  • 20% of HIV negative babies who are breastfed by positive mothers also become HIV positive.

These are hard facts to handle, and is something the staff have to deal with every day. HIV/AIDS cannot be treated. If a HIV positive person becomes ill, then the disease they have is treated.

Visit the South Africa Department of Health AIDS website for more information.


Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is an illness caused by a blood fluke called "schistosoma haematobium". The fluke lives in water, and its larvae can enter exposed people through their skin. It is not advised that anyone swim or bathe or even enter pools of water in this area, as it is very likely that the person would contract Bilharzia. Unfortunately, it is almost unavoidable for local people to spend time in infected water. The lake and many water pools in the area are the source of water for washing clothes and bathing. Therefore although Bilharzia is treatable, it is a major problem.


Malaria used to be a real problem in this area. In 1998 there were on average 2 deaths every week from Malaria. But the problem is decreasing; in 2002 the hospital saw no deaths from Malaria, and very few cases. The reason for this decrease is two-fold. The widespread and increased used of the pesticide DDT has reduced the number of mosquitoes, and this are has been given permission to use the drug 'co-artem' to treat those suffering from Malaria. This drug is very effective in the treatment of Malaria sufferers. The worst time of year for Malaria cases is from November to May when there are many mosquitoes around, and people also wear shorts and short-sleeved tops because of the heat and therefore more exposed to the mosquitoes.

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Last Updated July 2010. The Webmaster