RUNDU - By Wednesday last week, 64 cases of hepatitis E were confirmed in the two Kavango regions, with recent cases rocking Mpungu village in Kavango West where one death was recorded and eight cases were diagnosed with the lethal virus, health officials say.
“In Kavango West, they have recorded eight that are in Mpungu village, which is in the Nankudu health district, while in Kavango East, Rundu District has 42 cases and Andara District in Mukwe Constituency has 11 cases,” said chief medical officer, Abiola Adesina, at Kavango Health Directorate, which is in charge of the two Kavango regions.
The health directorate has planned a stakeholder and community engagement slated for 13 August (today) at Mpungu Vlei (village) to educate and make awareness on how to be safe from this virus.
“Health education and community mobilisation must continue as well as ongoing surveillance activities (active case finding),” Adesina added.
About a month ago, special advisor on health issues in the Office of the Presidency, Dr Bernard Haufiku, who is also the national hepatitis E campaign coordinator, at an event in Mukwe Constituency, said Namibia must not allow hepatitis E to become endemic, as it would be hard to eliminate.
“We know that health is still a challenge in Namibia … perhaps the most important message is that we have an outbreak of hepatitis E in the country and already in Kavango East and Kavango West hepatitis E has been reported. So, I want to plead with you to do the very simple thing and that is to wash your hands, especially after shaking hands with other people. And especially after going to help yourself, or any contact that you make, please wash your hands,” Haufiku said that time.
Haufiku also advised people in the rural areas, who normally defecate in the open due to lack of toilet facilities, to build their own ablution facilities to curb the spread of the disease.
“If you can make an ablution facility of your own, please I strongly encourage you to do so. As a coordinator for hepatitis E, I am here to support you. The reason why I’m saying that is because if we allow hepatitis E to become endemic, like other diseases, then we will never remove it from the face of Namibia, and I’m saying that because we have lost close to 50 people already due to this disease in the entire country,” he noted.
“And more people are getting infected – so that is my message. If you can forget about TB, HIV or malaria, please remember hepatitis E is with us and let us all protect ourselves,” he continued.
Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by infection with a virus known as hepatitis E virus transmitted via the faecal-oral route, principally through using contaminated water and research indicates that globally every year, there are an estimated 20 million infections, leading to an estimated 3.3 million symptomatic cases of hepatitis E.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a vaccine to prevent hepatitis E virus infection has been developed and is licensed in China, but is not yet available elsewhere.
The virus is harboured in the stools of infected persons, and enters the human body through the intestines. It is transmitted mainly by contaminated drinking water. Usually, the infection is self-limiting and resolves within two to six weeks. Occasionally, a serious disease, known as fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure) develops, and a proportion of people with this disease can die.