Namibia: Hepatitis E Claims 56 Lives

21 November 2019

THE latest figures from the health ministry show that hepatitis E has so far claimed 56 lives since its outbreak in December 2017.

The health ministry's director of health information and research, Philomena Ochurus, said in a presentation on Monday that as of last week, a cumulative total of 6 772 cases had been reported since 2017, of which 1 635 are laboratory-confirmed, 4 236 epi-linked, and 901 suspected cases.

She presented the updated report on the hepatitis E virus at a meeting on cross-border diseases between Namibia and Angola at Ongwediva yesterday.

"A total of 1 453 specimens tested negative for the virus, and were therefore discarded. The majority of cases (72%) are between the age groups of 20 and from 29 years and 30 to 39 years, accounting for 39% and 34% of the cases, respectively. The majority (59%) of the cases are amongst males," Ochurus said.

The Khomas region reported the highest number with 4 179 cases, followed by the Erongo and Omusati regions with 1525 and 269 cases, respectively.

Of the 56 deaths reported, 24 (42%) were mothers.

Some of the main objectives of the cross-border meeting included reviewing the status of implementation of recommendations made to Angola and Namibia during the technical support missions in August 2018 and February 2019, respectively.

It was also to sensitise and train healthcare staff of selected regions and districts of the two countries on cross-border diseases and standard operating procedures.

Meanwhile, recommendations by the World Health Organisation for Namibia titled 'Emergency Preparedness Response 2018', advise and recommend that Namibia improves access to safe water and proper sanitation through different methods, including at-home water purification techniques.

WHO surveillance officer Petrus Mhata said in the report that there should be regulation and monitoring of the water quality in affected areas.

Mhata also recommended the increase of toilets in different settlements to address the issue of open defecation. In addition, waste management and overall hygiene practices should be improved.

Ochurus added that the challenges they face include the vandalism of infrastructure like toilets, and inadequate wash interventions in some informal settlements still persisting because of insufficient water and sanitation facilities, and risky behavioural practices.

The cross-border meeting to strengthen surveillance for Guinea worm disease (GWD), hepatitis E and other priority diseases started on Monday, and will end tomorrow.

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