Health officials battle to contain cholera outbreak

Patients with symptoms of cholera wait to be seen by health officials at Etanga clinic on Saturday. The patient on the left was found mixing an oral rehydration salt solution, while waiting for treatment.

… death toll increases

WINDHOEK – The cholera outbreak in the Kunene Region claimed two more lives over the weekend, as more patients are admitted to the Opuwo State Hospital.

On Saturday the hospital admitted 28 new patients and on Sunday the number of patients admitted was 18. The two deaths increase the number of fatalities to seven so far. “Since Saturday, the death toll stood at seven and that is the figure we have up to Monday. We are hard at work. We have requested the Omusati Regional Council to put up a cholera centre in Opuwo,” Jason Ndahepele, the Senior Health Programme Administrator in the Family Health Division and also acting Kunene Regional Health Director told New Era yesterday. The cholera outbreak was first reported last week Tuesday. The worst hit area is Etanga, a village in the Epupa constituency. Ndahepele says health officials are yet to pin point the exact cause of the outbreak, and added that they are still waiting for results from a laboratory in Windhoek.

However, health officials have already started with mitigation measures to prevent the spread of the disease with teams going into the field to provide helpful information to villagers, such as the regular washing of their hands before eating. Residents in the affected communities are advised to clean their hands after using toilets, and to avoid drinking water from earth dams without boiling it first. According to Ndahepele they are also busy distributing water purification tablets and oral rehydration kits to villagers to avoid the further spread of the outbreak. “We have also sent two more nurses to the Etanga clinic to treat patients since there was only one nurse. Now they are three there to help patients,” he said.

Four of the five people who lost their lives to cholera are from the Etanga area, which is 100 kilometres west of Opuwo. The other victim is from the Okangwati settlement, about 120 kilometres south of Opuwo, also in the Epupa constituency. So far tests have confirmed that three of the five deceased patients died of cholera. The fight to contain the outbreak in the region is being hampered by the harsh topographical terrain of the region, which requires specialised transportation, as well as an inadequate number of health officials on the ground. The last case of cholera reported in the Kunene Region was in July 2013. No person died then and all affected individuals were treated and discharged.

By Albertina Nakale

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