Hepatitis E kills 5 in two weeks

Namibia's hepatitis epidemic is gathering speed at an alarming rate, with five people dying in the last two weeks of July alone.

08 August 2019 | Health

Five more people died from hepatitis E in the last two weeks of July, while nearly 230 new infections were recorded during that time, marking the highest number of new infections since the outbreak began in late 2017.

Twenty-eight new infections were recorded daily, on average, in a single week.

Moreover, the latest report on the outbreak shows that 77% of the 5 940 people diagnosed with hepatitis E are unemployed and dependent on communal water taps.

The situation report on the hepatitis E outbreak for the two-week period 15 and 29 July shows that a total of 229 people were newly infected during that time, bringing the total number of new infections to 5 940, up from 5 711 cases by 14 July. Moreover, the death toll increased to 53, up from 48 deaths by 14 July.

The report highlights further that while new infections continue to fluctuate, the 199 new infections recorded in just one week, between 22 and 29 July, marks the “highest number of cases since the outbreak”.

The report states that 4 563 of the people infected so far were unemployed Namibians living in informal settlements.

Further, 4 550 of those infected were found to depend on communal water taps, while 55% of those infected, or 3 242, ate food bought from street vendors.

Research has also found that about 9% of new cases, or 549 people, were hospitalised.

Meanwhile, the report issued this week confirms that the hepatitis A outbreak in the Omusati Region continues to affect more people, with 66 cases reported to date, up from 51 cases by mid-July.

The report also notes that since the start of the outbreak, 122 persons have been diagnosed with hepatitis A, while 164 were diagnosed with hepatitis B.

Ten people were co-infected with hepatitis A and E, while 62 were co-infected with hepatitis E and B. Four patients had all three strains of hepatitis.

The Khomas Region remains the most affected area with 3 819 of the confirmed cases, followed by the Erongo Region where 1 349 cases have been reported.

The report notes that as part of the response activities to curb the now nearly two-year hepatitis E outbreak, Unicef and the City of Windhoek continue to implement the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach in Windhoek.

CLTS is tailor-made for urban settings without compromising set city standards. The hepatitis task force, which includes city councillors, has been established and blocks were identified and mapping of sanitation centres has been conducted, the report notes.

The Oshana Region is experiencing a lack of space to put up toilets and pit latrines in some informal settlements, while in the Khomas Region water transportation and refilling of tanks remains a challenge. This is apparently because NamWater, which usually provides water to the tanks, has stopped the service.

The report highlights that vandalism and theft of public water and sanitation facilities remains a major challenge in the Khomas Region.


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