12 December 2018

Namibia: Hepatitis E Gobbles Up N$1,2 Million

THE health ministry has spent over N$1,2 million towards the ongoing fight against the hepatitis E outbreak in the country to date.

Permanent secretary Ben Nangombe said in a press statement this week that despite efforts to ward off the outbreak, new cases are being reported weekly.

Currently, the country has recorded 3 973 cumulative hepatitis E cases with 34 deaths, including 16 maternal fatalities.

Out of the 3 973 cases, 522 cases are laboratory confirmed, 2 817 cases are epidemiologically linked, and 634 are suspected cases.

The ministry conducted a rapid assessment survey on knowledge, attitudes and practices among residents of the Havana and Goreangab informal settlements. The survey ran from 3 to 11 December 2018.

"There is a need to understand the knowledge, attitudes and practices of the affected communities towards the hepatitis E virus in order to guide the implementation of appropriate response interventions," Nangombe said.

The outbreak of hepatitis E in the country was first declared in Windhoek's Havana and Goreangab settlements in November 2017, before the virus spread to other regions such as Erongo, and some northern areas of the country.

Nangombe said the main drivers of hepatitis E include open defecation, as well as poor sanitation and hygiene practices which can be prevented if community members change their behaviour.

"Previous epidemiological studies showed that the areas/sections within the affected informal settlements with inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure (e.g. communal taps, public toilets) were the hardest-hit by the outbreak," he stated. The virus infects a person's liver, and is mainly transmitted through drinking faecal contaminated water.

Children under the age of five, elderly people, pregnant women, immuno-compromised individuals and patients with chronic underlying medical conditions are at high risk of getting the virus.

Hepatitis E is preventable through safe drinking water, washing hands with soap and running water, adequate ablution facilities and adhering to good food safety standards.

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