Alvine Kapitako WINDHOEK - There are fears that if uncontrolled, hepatitis E which was reported in mainly Windhoek’s informal settlements nearly one year ego might become endemic. As a result, there is a need to reinvigorate efforts in controlling the disease, various speakers said at a public lecture on viral hepatitis E on Friday. “We are in the middle of an outbreak. The outbreak we are fighting appears to be very stubborn. The disease is fighting us, we are not fighting the disease. I hope that we can reinvigorate to get this disease out of Namibia,” said the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses. As of July 29, there was a cumulative total of 2, 237 cases of hepatitis E in the country. Additionally, 20 deaths were recorded since the outbreak of hepatitis E countrywide with over 80 percent of the reported cases having epidemiological links with confirmed cases in Khomas Region, which is the epicentre of the outbreak. Around 76 percent of affected people are in the age group 20-39 years, with males and females constituting 59 percent and 41 percent of reported cases, respectively, according to statistics availed on Friday . Currently, hepatitis E is present in the Khomas, Erongo, Oshana and Omusati regions. Sagoe-Moses said that the risks of hepatitis E spreading to other regions beyond these are very high because of high mobility and insufficient water and sanitation facilities in urban informal settlements and rural areas. Meanwhile, Dr Petrus Mhata of WHO said that some cases of hepatitis E that were treated in the Omusati Region originated from Angola and that this is being invested further. He shared similar sentiments as Sagoe-Moses that there is a need to treat hepatitis E as an emergency. “We need to do more otherwise we will be conquered by hepatitis E,” said Mhata. Mhata highlighted vandalism, theft and outbreak fatigue as some of the key challenges in fighting hepatitis E. Meanwhile, the councillor of Moses Garoeb constituency, Martin David, shared that high cases of hepatitis E can be traced in informal settlements because people there have to share communal toilets and water. As a result, informal settlements are breeding grounds for diseases because up to 30 households have to share one communal toilet, added David. “Nobody will take ownership of cleaning the toilet because the people are too many and very soon we are going to be struck by another disease because of unhygienic conditions in informal settlements,” said David. He added that over 200 erven have been demarcated in Moses Garoeb constituency. “I want to see that land is demarcated so that each family can have their own house with basic services so that these diseases can be controlled,” stressed David. The councillor also stressed the need for programmes that would educate community members, especially the business people in the informal settlements to maintain hygiene. David said using the radio to share the message on hygiene has not been very effective because not everybody gets to hear the message. There is a need for health workers to go house to house sharing the message on cleanliness, David suggested. Speaking during the question and answer session, Dr Lilliane Kahuika said that building more toilets at this stage may not be feasible but there are other alternatives. She explained that hepatitis E is orally spread through fecal contamination. People should maintain good hygiene and make a habit of washing their hands, said Kahuika. She also encouraged households sharing communal toilets to work together for the sake of their health. Kahuika suggested that households could share the cleaning responsibility by having a roster every hour to ensure that toilets are cleaned. The public lecture was held in observance of World Hepatitis Day, which was commemorated on 28 July.
New Era Reporter
2018-08-06 10:00:26 7 months ago