Sharing tombo, kapana linked to hepatitis E

27 March 2019 | Health

Research conducted by the University of Namibia (Unam), in close collaboration with Cardiff University, has found that the ongoing hepatitis E outbreak in informal areas may have been widely spread by the sharing of tombo and kapana.

Omusati regional health director Alfons Amoomo, however, said hepatitis E is mainly spread through water contaminated with human faeces.

The Unam study revealed that the communal sharing of tombo glasses and the touching of tombo jugs and glasses, without washing hands, had contributed to the spread of the disease.

Another contributor was the sharing of kapana on one plate, without hands being washed.

The hepatitis E outbreak was detected in the Havana and Goreangab informal settlements in Windhoek in December 2017. It had spread to northern Namibia by mid-2018.

The Unam School of Public Health, using SEEDCORN funding from the University of Cardiff's Wales Phoenix Project, conducted social science research in local communities, in close collaboration with the health ministry.

The Unam researchers and social work lecturer Dr Rachel Freeman said the research discovered there is generally a low level of knowledge and understanding of the transmission, management and prevention of hepatitis E.

Amoomo called for thorough research on whether sharing a glass of tombo can actually contribute to the spread of hepatitis E.

“Hepatitis E is mainly spread through water contaminated with human faeces. However, if a shebeen worker visits a toilet and touches the water used for cleaning tombo glasses, there is a huge possibility of contaminating such water.

Also, at cuca shops they sell both tombo and kapana, so there might be a link. We only need to conduct proper research to find out,” Amoomo said.

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

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

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

The Unam research report indicated that in response to the findings, Cardiff University, in close collaboration with Unam students from the visual arts and social work departments, are committed to developing a communication strategy to raise awareness and education to eliminate hepatitis E.

As part of the third-year academic assessment of visual arts students, they will be tasked to design hepatitis E prevention material to be pilot-tested in four Windhoek constituencies.

The social work department will also identify third-year students to assist the visual arts students to co-design and pilot the disease-prevention material.

ILENI NANDJATO

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