Windhoek — The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s country representative, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, yesterday said that the provision of adequate sanitation facilities and increasing access to safe water supply are key to curbing the outbreak and future prevention of hepatitis E.
The disease is spread mainly through the fecal-oral route and caused by poor sanitation.
"For as long as the sanitation in these settlements is compromised, we are likely to see more cases. Secondly, the incubation period for hepatitis E is between two to ten weeks, which implies that most of the new cases are from patients who may have contracted the disease in November and early December last year," said Sagoe-Moses.
Active contact tracing and case search and increased surveillance are leading to early detection of cases and prompt treatment at the health facilities, he added.
In addition, increased awareness on the disease resulted in improved health-seeking behaviour at community level and thus reporting of cases at health facilities, said Sagoe-Moses. He added that the response from the Ministry of Health and Social Service to hepatitis E has been robust and case management has been of good quality.
"The few cases which have been hospitalized are receiving quality care and patients are in stable conditions," said Sagoe-Moses.
Furthermore, he said, WHO and its partners are providing technical support to the Ministry of Health and Social Services to implement the multi-sectoral and integrated response plan to contain the outbreak.
"Within the framework of the response plan, WHO and other partners have been providing guidance on how to recognise and prevent hepatitis E and contain it by engaging communities and relevant sectors in improved water supply and sanitation for communities," said Sagoe-Moses.
Statistics from the public relations office in the Ministry of Health and Social Services indicate that as of Monday this week, the number of hepatitis E cases stood at 296, up from 237 on January 9.
A pregnant woman miscarried over the weekend at 24 weeks as a result of the virus, while a mother who delivered on Friday was also admitted in acute care. Their ages could not be provided.
In addition, a 19-year-old man is also in a critical condition, said the ministry's spokesperson Manga Libita on Monday.