Hepatitis E claims 40 lives

04 February 2019 | Health

Forty people, including 17 women who were pregnant or had recently given birth, have died from the prolonged hepatitis E outbreak that broke out in September 2017.

A total of 4 318 hepatitis E cases have been recorded in most of Namibia's regions, the latest statistics released by the health ministry show.

On 2 December 2018, a total of 4 009 cases had been recorded, including 34 deaths, of which 16 were maternal deaths.

The Khomas Region's informal settlements remain the hardest hit by the outbreak, with 2 962 cases, followed by the Erongo Region with 918 cases, Omusati with 174 cases and Oshana with 80 cases.

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

Only 34 have been reported in the Otjozondjupa, Kunene, Omaheke and Hardap regions.

Thirty of the 40 recorded deaths occurred in the Khomas Region, four in the Erongo Region and two each in the Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshana regions.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) weekly bulletin on outbreaks and other emergencies, issued on 25 January, noted that based on the outbreak statistics up to 6 January, “the overall trend has been declining”.

The health ministry cautioned that although a decline in the rate of new infections had been observed, the incubation period of the disease is between two and ten weeks. While the number of cases in a given week might be fewer, “there may still be some people who have been infected a number of weeks ago, but still do not exhibit symptoms of the disease.”

Nevertheless, a health official said the number of reported cases showed a downward trend.

Last week, a presentation by the City of Windhoek on conditions in the city's more than 80 informal settlements, which according to international classifications qualify as slums, noted that at least 131 000 residents live without adequate water and sanitation.

Open defecation is common, the municipality said, and “due to pressure, and to a certain extent vandalism and illegal dumping, the sewer system is failing.”

As a result of this, there is an overflow of sewage into the river system, which poses a severe health risk to the residents of informal settlements.

In December, Namibian Sun reported that the breadth of Namibia's hepatitis E outbreak is unique.

While Uganda and South Sudan have experienced hepatitis E outbreaks of similar duration as Namibia, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Namibia explained that the spread of the disease to several other regions was unique.


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