Spread of hepatitis E unique to Namibia

A lack of sanitation in rural areas, along with the travelling patterns of Namibians, has made the way hepatitis E has spread wholly Namibian.

13 December 2018 | Health

The way in which the hepatitis E outbreak has spread in Namibia is unique in the world, health experts say.

Since the first cases were reported in Windhoek's Havana and Goreangab informal settlements on 13 October 2017, the disease has spread to six other regions: Erongo, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshana, Oshikoto and Kavango East.

The spread is the result of frequent travel between Windhoek and those regions and a dire lack of toilets, safe water points and poor personal hygiene.

Although Uganda and South Sudan have experienced hepatitis-E outbreaks of similar duration as Namibia, Eric Dziuban, country director for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Namibia, says what is unique about this outbreak is how it has spread throughout the country.

Last week, the health ministry announced that 3 973 hepatitis E cases had been confirmed countrywide by the end of November.

There have been 34 deaths, including 16 pregnant or post-partum women.

“Over 80% of cases recorded in these regions were linked to Havana and Goreangab informal settlements in Windhoek by travel history,” the ministry confirmed.

Surveys have confirmed that the hardest hit areas by the outbreak are informal settlements with inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure, where open defecation is common.

“This calls for behavioural change of affected community members,” the ministry stressed.

While authorities have made efforts to improve access to toilets and water, frequent vandalism has been reported.

Take care this holiday

With the upcoming festive season, authorities are urging hosts and organisations of public gatherings to “ensure provision of safe drinking water, hand-washing facilities with soap and running water, adequate ablution facilities with hand-washing stations and adhering to the World Health Organisation's food safety practices.”

Dziuban underlined too that “poor hygiene and sanitation conditions, like those in informal settlements, make it difficult to contain the outbreak.”

This month the United States embassy in Namibia, through the CDC, handed over 600 rapid test kits and personal protective equipment to the health ministry.

The use of these kits in the field and in clinics and hospitals will allow for the immediate diagnosis of hepatitis E.

Currently, a diagnosis is confirmed through a blood test, which on average requires more than a week to produce results and takes even longer in the regions.

The kits will be distributed for use in the field and at facilities that have a high volume of pregnant women.

These test kits will be particularly useful for the diagnosis of pregnant women who are most vulnerable to hepatitis E infection.

The CDC has provided ongoing assistance to the health ministry, including inviting a number of expert epidemiologists who provided intensive capacity-building support to improve the epidemiological investigation.

The support is set to continue with the next stage being to help the ministry conduct a knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) survey in Havana and Goreangab, that will help identify the specific type of hepatitis E virus that is affecting the country.

Dziuban said the survey's goal was “to learn what behaviours may be contributing to the ongoing transmission. By having data on actual practices and behaviours, it will allow for designing effective interventions and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) strategies.”

The ministry announced that a team of 16 data collectors, six field supervisors and three drivers will cover 640 households in Havana and Goreangab over a nine-day period, which began on 3 December.

Most of the funding for the response was national but aid in various forms was received from the US embassy through the CDC, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef and the Red Cross.


Similar News


Hepatitis E cases surpass 5 000

5 days ago - 13 June 2019 | Health

More than 1 000 new hepatitis E cases have been detected in Namibia since January, while 45 people have died since the first case...

Cervical cancer kills 135 in //Karas in 2018

1 week ago - 10 June 2019 | Health

In 2018, cervical cancer accounted for 135 deaths of women mostly aged between 30 and 49 in Namibia, the governor of the //Karas Region, Lucia...

TB hospital nears completion

1 week ago - 06 June 2019 | Health

A long-awaited TB hospital at Keetmanshoop is expected to be completed by September this year, says the //Karas regional health director, Dr Refanus Kooper. ...

Diseases batter Namibians

2 weeks ago - 31 May 2019 | Health

More than 1.3 million people required interventions against non-communicable diseases in Namibia in 2017. Meanwhile, the probability of a 30-year-old dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer,...

Menstruation is normal - governor

2 weeks ago - 31 May 2019 | Health

One in ten menstruating girls in Namibia skip school every month or drop out completely because of a lack of sanitary products. This was said...

Namibia hailed as leader in HIV response

3 weeks ago - 28 May 2019 | Health

JANA-MARI SMITH Namibia is leading the race towards reaching epidemic control of HIV in Africa and the government’s robust commitment to...

Iipotha yoMalaria ya gu pevi

3 weeks ago - 24 May 2019 | Health

Iipotha yomukithi gwomalaria oya gu pevi noonkondo miitopolwa iyali yaKavango, sho kwa lopotwa owala iipotha yi li 1 120 okuyeleka nomvula ya zi ko ethimbo...

Malaria cases drop

3 weeks ago - 23 May 2019 | Health

Cases of malaria have dropped significantly in the two Kavango regions, with only 1 120 cases recorded so far this year, while over 6 000...

Urgent progress on low birth weight needed

4 weeks ago - 21 May 2019 | Health

Namibia's estimated prevalence of low birth weight stood at 15.5% in 2015, which is higher than that of the African region, which has a prevalence...

Congo fever: Only one confirmed case

1 month - 16 May 2019 | Health

Only one patient, who is recovering, has so far tested positive for Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) in northern Namibia. Two other suspected cases...

Latest News

Geingob regrets fatal shooting

21 hours ago | Government

JANA-MARI SMITH President Hage Geingob has reached out to the family of 22-year-old Fambaune Black, who was killed by a Namibian Defence Force (NDF)...

Sky is the limit for...

21 hours ago | Technology

Ester Kamati Megan Werner, an experienced model and published author, recently finished building an aircraft along with 20 other youth, which they plan to fly...

The weight of expectation

21 hours ago | Columns

A huge weight of expectation will undoubtedly rest on political leaders vying for office later this year. While there is a sense that the current...

It’s not that serious!

21 hours ago | Columns

Ester KamatiThis may be a worn-out topic but the need to talk about it is quite strong. Lately romantic relationships among youth have simply become...

New name for Etakaya

21 hours ago | Education

Justicia Shipena Etakaya Primary School, situated at Etakaya village of Etakaya in the Ohangwena Region, was recently renamed Sakaria H Nghikembua Primary School.The school...

Feeling the momentum!

21 hours ago | Sports

Ester KamatiWindhoek High School’s Vegkop stadium is home to many memorable games when it comes to rugby and this year was no different. The stadium...

Improving Africa through constructive debate

21 hours ago | Education

Ester KamatiThe 2019 Day of the African Child Debate and Public Speaking Championships knockout rounds were held at the St George's ­Diocesan School on 14...

40 000 to benefit from...

21 hours ago | Environment

More than 40 000 beneficiaries are expected to benefit from a climate change project in the Kunene Region.This is 57% of the total population of...

Houses, drought relief food not...

21 hours ago | Infrastructure

People should not see houses built for them as a way for the ruling party to campaign for the upcoming election, but rather as development...

Load More