Hepatitis deaths slow down

While hepatitis E remains problematic and infections are still very high, there have been no new fatalities.

04 October 2019 | Health

The ongoing hepatitis E outbreak has not claimed any further lives over the past two months, with the fatality rate remaining at 55 since August.

The latest situation report on the two-year viral outbreak shows that of the 55 hepatitis E fatalities reported to date, 35 were female and 20 male.

By end of July, the number of people who had died from the outbreak numbered 53, and it increased to 55 in August. Since then, no new deaths have been reported, although the number of infections continues to climb and the outbreak is spreading.

By 22 September, a cumulative total of 6 497 hepatitis E cases had been reported, of which 4 033 (62%) were in the Khomas Region, 1 493 (23%) in the Erongo Region and the remaining 971 cases spread out among the other regions.

The majority of those infected, 73%, were between 20 and 39 years old.

Meanwhile, the Omusati Region continues to report an increase in hepatitis A cases, with an estimated 120 cases recorded there to date. Sixty-three cases of hepatitis A have been sporadically reported in all other regions except Kavango.

Over the two weeks from 9 to 22 September, there was a decrease in the number of new hepatitis E infections, compared to the two weeks prior.

A total of 89 hepatitis E cases were reported between 9 and 22 September, compared to 104 cases reported between 26 August and 8 September.

Response

The report says that integrated hepatitis E supportive supervision visits to affected regions that started on 16 July are close to completion.

Moreover, community sanitation action groups were formed in an attempt to end open defecation and promote improved sanitation in informal settlements to help end the outbreak.

A local non-profit organisation, the Development Workshop Namibia (DWN), also recently launched a sanitation programme which includes the construction of sanitation centres and the implementation of information campaigns.

In a recent statement, DWN pointed out that hepatitis E continues spreading in Namibia because of poor sanitary conditions in informal settlements. In 2011 it was estimated that some 50% of all informal settlement residents in Namibia were without access to toilets.

“This indicates the magnitude of open defecation. Ensuring appropriate and financially viable sanitary solutions for Namibia´s informal settlements is therefore a priority,” DWN said.

Beat Weber of DWN recently told Namibian Sun that over the years, as the sanitation crisis in informal settlements remained unaddressed, residents took matters into their own hands and many began building their own pit latrines.

“Cheap to build and hygienic if properly done, these toilets are a very good solution,” he explained.

The sanitation programme designed by the DWN is built on this citizen initiative.

“We basically encourage informal settlement residents to build their own toilets and provide them with guidelines how to do it cheaply, and to standard. For this purpose, the City of Windhoek has developed pit latrine standards which we promote through the programme,” he said.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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