THE Municipality of Walvis Bay yesterday announced a hepatitis E “outbreak” at the town after five cases were confirmed last month.
The health ministry is monitoring activities at informal trade areas and settlements, and will carry out intensive health education and information-sharing sessions in the next few weeks. The distribution of chlorine tablets and soap for personal hygiene is underway, as well as the distribution of a designed leaflet covering two issues: the importance of hand washing, and street food safety. The leaflets are in English and Oshiwambo.
“Although there are reported cases, there is no need for panic as the situation is being monitored and managed with the message that prevention is the most effective approach against the disease,” the municipality’s statement read.
In November 2017, the ministry of health declared a hepatitis E outbreak in Windhoek, and since then, cases have been reported in other regions too. In the Erongo region, outbreaks have been reported at Swakopmund, Omaruru, Henties Bay and Walvis Bay. According to the council’s announcement, immediate action was taken by the Walvis Bay municipality, which launched awareness campaigns on food safety and good personal hygiene among residents and informal food traders in the harbour town.
The campaigns have been a “great success”, as the public and informal traders welcomed the information-sharing, and were very eager to participate. Erongo health director Amir Shaker told The Namibian yesterday that all is under control in the region, thanks to awareness campaigns by the public and ministry officials.
The first outbreak in the region was confirmed at Swakopmund last July, and at Omaruru during September.
Until the end of January this year, there have been 961 suspected cases in the region, with 177 confirmed. Of these, 155 were from Swakopmund, 14 from Omaruru, six from Walvis Bay and two from Usakos.
According to Shaker, figures have decreased dramatically during the last two months and the latest five cases are the only ones they are currently treating.
“What I can assure you is that all [previous cases] have been cleared 100% as this is a virus that comes and goes. It is not healed, but treated symptomatically, and with personal hygiene, it goes away, and contagions are reduced and then it can be easily controlled,” he explained. This resulted in a decrease in cases since the outbreak began last year.
He also explained that the World Health Organisation considers five cases of any confirmed case of disease an ‘outbreak’.
“But one case of hepititis E in Namibia we consider as an outbreak because it can spread very quickly and we don’t take chances,” he said.
Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by a virus. The disease is serious, especially for pregnant women and those with a low immune system. This virus is usually spread via the faecal-oral route, and can be found in contaminated drinking water and food, including fruit, vegetables and meat.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis E may take two to 10 weeks to appear after persons have been exposed to the virus.
Symtoms are yellow eyes and skin, fever, tiredness, pain in joints, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, dark urine and light-coloured stools are signs of infection, and people must immediately go to a clinic or doctor to be tested.
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Publish date : 2019-03-14 14:39:02