Namibia on Cross-Border Disease High Alert

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By Surihe Gaomas

WINDHOEK

Namibia’s heath authorities are on high alert following a mystery disease outbreak in Angola where more than 200 people have been hospitalized.

The number of people infected by the mystery illness, which has already claimed the lives of four children on the outskirts of the Angolan capital Luanda, has now climbed to 284.

Contaminated food is suspected, but authorities are still in the dark as to the exact cause of the disease that started in Cacuaco, some 20 kilometres north of Luanda. .

In light of this health crisis close to Namibia’s northern border regions, Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi informed New Era on Friday that its health authorities are on the alert.

“Disease knows no borders and we are on full alert. The Emergency Management team is on the lookout for any outbreak at anytime,” said Kamwi who was informed about the mystery illness by his counterpart in Angola and the Word Heath Organisation last week.

The minister urged Namibians living in the northern regions of the country, as well as in the Khomas Region, to report any symptoms of the disease outbreak to the nearest health facility immediately.

“Everyone should be aware of the symptoms, namely weakness, drowsiness, muscle spasms, a confused state of mind, dizziness and difficulty in walking and speaking,” said Kamwi.

Since the illness is suspected to be food-borne related, Kamwi advises that the public “observe individual and collective measures, especially when it comes to food hygiene, and at the same time avoid all risk factors related to solids and to go to the nearest health facility if suffering from these signs and symptoms.”

On average, 20 new such cases per day have been reported in Angola since last Monday.

The first cases were observed in early October by a traditional healer in Cucuaco, about 20 kilometres north of Luanda. The authorities were alerted by mid-October, when the municipal hospital started registering patients.

Approximately 208 000 people live in the coastal municipality.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) statement on Tuesday last week said it has deployed “an international team of experts in clinical toxicology, epidemiology and environmental health, as well as laboratory personnel to assist the Ministry of Health in the ongoing investigation”.

International media reports revealed that experts from the United States (US) Centre of Disease Control (CDC), based in Luanda, have also offered support for the investigation.

It is further reported that samples of blood, urine and faeces had been taken for testing. WHO’s Disease Control Officer in Luanda, Balbina Felix, said these had been sent to the CDC in Atlanta, US as well as to testing facilities in France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

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