Windhoek-In light of the Hepatitis E outbreak in Windhoek, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has cautioned the public to maintain good hygiene at all times as a preventative measure.
At a media briefing yesterday, the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Petronella Masabane, confirmed the outbreak, saying over the past three months patients have been going to health facilities, particularly Katutura Intermediate Hospital, with symptoms suggestive of liver disease.
Most of these are from the informal settlements, namely Havana, Goreangab, Hakahana, Greenwell Matongo, Ombili and Katutura.
The patients were first tested for Hepatitis B and C, which came back negative. That was when they were tested for Hepatitis E.
Furthermore, a 26-year old woman who had delivered her baby died on November 19, following complications from the disease, said Dr Lilliane Kahuika, medical epidemiologist in the epidemiology division of the health ministry, at the media briefing.
As of yesterday, 26 patients were tested for Hepatitis E. Nine tested positive, four tested negative, while eight results were still pending. The last Hepatitis E outbreak was declared in 1983, added Masabane. Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by Hepatitis E virus (HEV).
HEV infection usually results in a self-limiting, acute illness but most people recover completely. Type 1 and 2 have been associated with waterborne outbreaks.
The outbreak case-fatality rate is of about 1 percent for the general public and 10-30 percent in pregnant women.
The incubation period is two to ten weeks, said Masabane. The symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice (discoloration of eyes), dark urine, clay coloured stool and pain in the joints.
Preventative measures include boiling or purifying drinking water, washing hands using soap before preparing food, or before eating, and after using the toilet, after changing a baby’s nappies, after shaking hands, and keeping toilets and surroundings clean.
Masabane also urged people, especially those living in informal settlements, to do away with ‘flying toilets’. Flying toilets is defecating in a plastic bag and disposing of it in the surroundings. “We have to nip this in the bud,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, also stressed the importance of personal hygiene and particularly the regular washing of hands.
“It’s not just about how to manage the disease. It’s beyond that. One of the strongest transmitters of disease is handshaking. You have to wash your hands,” emphasised Haufiku.
A team consisting of stakeholders such as the City of Windhoek, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Social Services is working vigorously to contain the disease.