PANIC is sweeping through suburbs north of Katutura after three people died and 19 others were hospitalised with a disease that still has to be identified.
A press release from the Ministry of Health and Social Services last night indicated that the disease was not confined to the Khomas Region, and that cases of "undiagnosed paralysis" among adults had been reported in the Otjozondjupa and Hardap regions.
A media briefing is scheduled for this morning to reveal information related to the outbreak.
Well-placed hospital sources confirmed yesterday that two other people were fighting for their lives in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Windhoek Central Hospital after contracting the mystery disease.
Health personnel revealed that parts of the Katutura and Windhoek Central Hospital have been declared restricted areas as Government intensifies efforts to identify the disease and to deal with it.
When The Namibian visited the Okahandja Park informal settlement yesterday to speak to a family who lost a baby, residents confirmed that another child had died a few hours earlier in Babilon.
An emergency meeting took place late yesterday afternoon after health personnel conducted a quick survey in Okuryangava and Okahandja Park.
They were reporting their findings to the Deputy Minister of Health, Petrina Haingura, and other senior staff members of the Ministry.
Health sources said 18 adults and a child were hospitalised at the Katutura and Windhoek Central hospitals and samples have been sent to South Africa for analysis.
There were fears that they were all attacked by Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) - a disorder of the peripheral nervous system.
It causes the nerves to inflame, slowing communication to and from the brain.
Eventually, the brain is not able to effectively communicate with the peripheral nerves, causing paralysis.
Victims become severely out of breath and unable to perform previously effortless tasks, such as swallowing.
Cramps and body aches often follow.
After approximately two weeks, the patient may deteriorate to a condition of severe paralysis.
However, health personnel said the disease appeared not to be Guillain-Barré, although the symptoms were similar.
"We can't say exactly what it is but we also do not want to sound alarm.
People must stay calm for now," said one senior health official.
A FATHER'S STORY
Mateus Amupadhi, who lost his 10-month-old baby on Monday, said it all happened very quickly.
"She started crying on Sunday night and we took her to hospital where she got tablets.
She was fine the next morning when I went to work and took medicine.
Next thing she started vomiting and we took her back.
She died while we were waiting for treatment," he said.
Amupadhi said the baby was not sick before that.
He is leaving for the North today to bury the baby.
Hilaria Ngolonga, a community activist in Okahandja Park, said she knew of a man who died on board a bus to the North.
"It is very strange.
He stopped speaking and his eyes started getting bigger before he died.
He was in the bus waiting for its departure to the North," she said.
Another volunteer at the Okahandja Park Bridging Children School said they had 19 children absent yesterday.
They were told that some had polio symptoms but will only know today what exactly was wrong.