21 December 2017

Namibia: Woman Dies of Hepatitis E After Giving Birth

A 26-YEAR-OLD mother who had just given birth is the first known victim of the hepatitis E outbreak in Windhoek that has been confirmed by the health ministry.

The disease that affects the liver is transmitted through faecal contaminated water and poor sanitation.

The health minister, Bernard Haufiku, told the media yesterday that a hepatitis E outbreak in Windhoek's informal settlements was declared on 14 December.

Haufiku said the woman, whose identity was not given, died on 19 November at the Katutura Intermediate Hospital.

He also said since then 26 people had been tested for the disease and that nine were found positive while results for eight others were pending.

Haufiku said the ministry had already informed the World Health Organisation about the outbreak.

"We tested about 26 people and nine tested positive and all these patients are from different residential areas of Windhoek district," Haufiku said.

Sixteen of those tested are from Havana, six from Goreangab Dam and the rest are from Hakahana, Greenwell Matongo and Ombili.

"This virus is waterborne, and it comes down to personal hygiene, so we are urging people to wash their hands all the time, every-time," Haufiku said.

A Katutura Intermediate Hospital epidemiologist, Lilliane Kahuika, told The Namibian yesterday that the woman who died, left a newborn baby.

Kahuika said pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are at high risk.

Health acting permanent secretary, Petronella Masabane said they declare an outbreak when there are more than five reported cases of a disease.

"Currently, our teams are on the ground, and preliminary environmental assessment was conducted, and the detailed ecological investigation is underway in the affected areas.

"This outbreak, however, is declared by the Khomas region. Namibia experienced its first hepatitis E outbreak in 1983 at Rundu, where nine cases were confirmed, and the last outbreak was in 1995 to 1996 also at Rundu," said Masabane.

She further said that social mobilisation to the general public is underway and will continue.

She also said that any person with acute illness including acute jaundice, dark urine, anorexia, malaise, extreme fatigue and right upper quadrant tenderness should report to the nearest health facility.

Unicef communication specialist Judy Matjila, who attended the briefing, said that behavioural change enables people to engage in participatory processes to define their needs and demand their rights.

"When we teach our children the right thing like washing their hands properly with soap and water and keeping their environment clean, they will. Because children are good in bringing change at home, let us start with them," Matjila said.

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