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Hepatitis E slum epidemic nowhere near over

Hepatitis E slum epidemic nowhere near over

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POOR HARDEST HIT: Some scenes from the Goreangab Informal settlement. Photo’s: Jacobus Retief

Zorena Jantze

DURING the month of June, the Hepatitis E Virus (HEV), which has spread like wildfire through Namibia’s sewer deep informal settlements, carried on unabated, with 113 cases reported countrywide during the month.

So far, 45 lives have perished since the outbreak, which started in September 2017.

From the 45 lives lost, 20 maternal deaths have been reported, signifying the much-extended grave impact that the disease has on Namibia, with newborn babies and children being orphaned due to insatiable spread of the virus.

To date, more families are in peril, with 300 more suspected cases of pregnant women with Hepatitis E having been reported.

According to the report dated 24 June, the 113 cases reported during the month shows a significant spike in the spread of the disease, with only 56 cases reported during the prior month.

Cumulatively, as of 16 June 2019, a total of 5 423 HEV cases were reported, including 1 041 confirmed, and total of  3 694 people suspected to have come into close contact with those infected (epi-link).

The Majority of cases are reported from Khomas (61%), Hardap (16%), Erongo (15%), Omusati (7%), Omaheke 6 (5%) while Oshana, Ohangwena and Kavango reported 1(0.9%) case each.

Ministry of Health and Social Services spokesperson, Manga Libita, stated that the National Health Emergency Management Committee (NHEMC) and the response team continued to engage partners, particularly UNDP, City of Windhoek (CoW), Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (MICT) to support awareness raising for individuals and collective responsibility, including coordination in fighting HEV in the country.

Libita added that UNICEF and partners have expressed readiness to support the CoW and other municipalities to implement Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) tailor-made to suit the urban setting, without compromising the standards of cities.

When they occur, the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis E are similar to those of other types of acute viral hepatitis and can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice and dark urine.

Persons experiencing these symptoms are advised to seek medical counsel at their nearest health facility.

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