• February 20th, 2020

Hepatitis E claims another life

Hileni Mwandingi

GOBABIS- The measures put into place by the health department and its stakeholders to mitigate the Hepatitis E outbreak in Omaheke Region seems to be futile, as the confirmed cases of the disease and fatalities keep growing.
According to the latest report by MoHSS in the region, a 41-year old male from Kannan C informal settlement died earlier last week in a Windhoek hospital, where he was being treated of the symptoms of Hepatitis E. The deceased is said to be one of the first positive cases confirmed since the outbreak of the disease in Omaheke in January this year. 
He was admitted in the Gobabis hospital and was later discharged sometimes in January, and is said to have been doing well, until when he travelled to Windhoek recently, where he got sick again early this month. He was then admitted into a hospital a day before he succumbed to the virus. 
The report states that, of the 80 cases screened, an alarming 44 cases have been confirmed positive. All these positive cases are from Gobabis’ informal settlements with only one case of someone from a farm situated near Witvlei.
Contacted for comments, the Director of Health in the region Jeremia Shikulo said that the disease keeps spreading as a result of poor sanitation which remains the biggest challenge in town. “The increase in cases could be attributed to the lack of adequate safe water supply, sanitation facilities and general hygiene especially in the informal settlements.” 
Although there were temporary toilets and dispersed water tanks installed by the ministry of health, town council and other stakeholders back in February, to the most affected area which is Kannan informal settlement, the challenge remains that these services cannot cater for everyone and there is a need to provide more. The health extension workers also reported that, some community members are reluctant to use the provided toilets, out of fear that they will be infected with the virus from using the same toilets, despite being educated on the spreading of the said virus. According to the report, 80 percent of the positive cases are from Kannan C, with the rest coming from other informal settlements. 
The report further stipulates that, only one confirmed case is of a working person while the rest are unemployed people, between the ages 19 – 67. It further establishes that most of these people are males despite a female being the first ever to be diagnosed with the said disease in the region. Only one child aged three is part of the statistics, and it is suspected that the child contracted the Hepatitis E virus from the surrounding area through ingestion of contaminated water or food as none of her family members have been diagnosed with the virus.
According to Shikulo, the regional health directorate in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders have put in place the Hepatitis E virus outbreak response plan, and have been sensitizing the communities through information sharing sessions and radio jingles. 
“In addition, the regional response committee meetings and regional stakeholders’ meetings have been held on regular basis despite poor attendance by a number of invited stakeholders,” he said. He added that, the disease trend is being monitored closely and cases are managed effectively in accordance with the WHO standards by the regional and district surveillance officers. 
He also mentioned that, a clean-up campaign was organized in collaboration with the municipality, although the community turnout was disappointingly low. Hand wash soaps and water purification tablets have also been distributed to the households where positive laboratory confirmed Hepatitis E virus cases came from.
Since the outbreak of Hepatitis E in Gobabis earlier this year, it was only one death, a maternal death, which was reported back in January, of a 19-year-old woman who started showing signs of the disease few days after giving birth. She was transferred to a Windhoek hospital to receive additional medical attention, but later passed on, leaving her newborn baby. The baby is said to be in good health under the care of its grandmother and is being monitored by the health department from time to time. 

Staff Reporter
2019-05-15 10:41:03 | 9 months ago

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