Health advisor in the Office of the President Dr Bernhard Haufiku said in light of the Covid-19 crisis, Namibia should not forget Hepatitis E, which infects millions of people.
Dr Haufiku expressed this sentiment during a discussion dissecting the recent State House briefing on Covid-19 extra measures last week on NBC. He referred to Hepatitis E recently while addressing the Editor’s Forum of Namibia (EFN) when he called on the media to get on board in the fight of Covid-19. He also said the Hepatitis E battle has not yet been won.
Hepatitis E is mainly found in informal settlements, where there is generally poor hygiene and sanitation.
Speaking to New Era off the cuff after the briefing at State House on Friday, Haufiku said the cases have surged especially in Khomas, though it was noted there was a decline of Hepatitis E cases recorded in Erongo.
He said, at an individual level, many people in these informal settlements do not practice personal hygiene.
“Clean water, hygiene and sanitation will lessen the battle,” stressed the former health minister. Hepatitis E cases have been reported mainly from informal settlements in Windhoek, such as Havana and Goreangab. This also includes Swakopmund’s DRC informal settlement and other similar settings in regions where access to potable water is limited and generally characterised by poor sanitation and hygiene.
Among the symptoms of Hepatitis E are fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, jaundice and dark urine. The ministry of health’s Situation Report on the outbreak of Hepatitis E virus also states that the outbreak of Covid-19 overtook the focus on HIV and meetings do not discuss HIV, as all eyes are fixated on corona.
The same report revealed there were 7 457 Hepatitis E cases reported from September 2017 to March 2020, of which there were 1 896 laboratory-confirmed cases and 65 deaths recorded – 26 of these cases are maternal-related deaths during this period.
Windhoek has 406 laboratory cases, 675 suspected cases and 35 deaths of Hepatitis E. Windhoek is followed by Erongo with 531 laboratory cases, 120 suspected cases and 11 deaths, followed by Omusati with 215 confirmed cases, 114 suspected cases and five deaths. The situation report on the outbreak of Hepatitis E stated that in the last eight weeks (13 January to 8 March 2020), a total number of 335 HEV cases were reported nationwide, with Khomas region reporting 219 cases (65%), followed by Erongo region 44 (13%), Omusati 30 ( 9%), Ohangwena 13 (4%), Omaheke 10 (3%), Kavango 5 (1%), Kunene 4 (1%), Hardap and Otjozondjupa 3 (1%) cases each, while Oshana and Oshikoto reported 2 (1%) cases each.
In addition, the recent three most affected locations in Khomas are Havana (41), Goreangab (25) and Okahandja park (22) informal settlements. Erongo region reported 44 HEV cases during the same period. Recent HEV cases in Erongo in the last eight weeks are mainly being reported from Kuisemond in Walvisbay (37), DRC informal settlement in Swakopmund (3) and Karibib (2).
The report noted men are mostly affected by Hepatitis E, representing 59% of the cases, while the majority of cases are recorded among those in the age group of 20-39 and lowest in children under the age of one.
MoHSS declared the HEV outbreak on 14 December 2017 in Windhoek, which continued spreading to other regions of the country around April 2018, eventually involving a total of 10 regions: Erongo, Kavango, Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Omaheke, Hardap and Otjozondjupa regions.