Hepatitis E a 'Windhoek-borne' disease – researchers

27 February 2019 | Health

Following a hepatitis E outbreak in the Omusati Region last year, research was conducted by the University of Namibia (Unam) and Cardiff University, which found that most of the cases had been brought into the region from Windhoek.

Regional health director Alfons Amoomo says the region recorded 98 hepatitis E cases, of which 62 were people who had travelled to either Windhoek or Swakopmund.

During the hepatitis E outbreak last year, a total of 4 318 hepatitis E cases were reported nationwide, including 34 deaths, of which 16 were maternal deaths.

The Khomas Region's informal settlements recorded the highest number of 2 962 cases, followed by the Erongo Region with 918 cases, Omusati with 98 cases and Oshana with 80 cases.

In Ohangwena, 60 cases were reported, followed by 50 cases in the Oshikoto Region and 39 in the two Kavango regions.

The research findings were presented at Outapi in the Omusati Region on Monday.

One of the researchers, Unam social work lecturer Dr Rachel Freeman, said when the outbreak was declared in Windhoek's Havana and Goreangab informal settlements on 14 December 2017, Unam and Cardiff University proposed the research project to the ministry of health and social services.

“The aim of the research was to inform and strengthen the field response in order to reduce transmission, mortality and the burden of hepatitis E on the national health system,” she said.

Freeman said cases were identified at the four district hospitals of Tsandi, Oshikuku, Okahao and Outapi. No new cases have been reported in the region since then.

“The majority of the infected people in Omusati had travelled from or to Windhoek or Swakopmund's informal settlements, or they had been in close contact with friends or relatives from Windhoek,” Freeman said.

“Therefore, the perception of the participants was that hepatitis E is a 'Windhoek-borne' disease.”

Professor Judith Hall of Cardiff University said the hepatitis E outbreak was a wake-up call for Namibia.

She said the country has a very small population, but it has many wealthy people who can help to uplift the standard of living in their communities.

“It's time for people with high income to be kind and help their communities. They need to sponsor the establishment of toilets or hygiene facilities and adequate drinking water facilities,” Hall said.

ILENI NANDJATO

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