Hepatitis E hits harbour town

An intensive awareness and information sharing campaign was launched in Walvis Bay to educate community members about the prevalence of the hepatitis E virus.

18 March 2019 | Health

Registered Nurse; Walvis Bay Hospital; “We have not yet contained the outbreak, since it started only last month.”

The municipality of Walvis Bay called on residents not to panic in the wake of a reported hepatitis E outbreak in the coastal town.

More than five laboratory confirmed cases were reported in a month in Walvis Bay and this constitutes an outbreak of the virus.

The public relations office of the municipality said the situation is being monitored and managed closely. It announced that two public meetings have been scheduled, at the Kuisebmond Community Hall on 19 March at 18:00, and at the Narraville Community Hall on 20 March at 18:00, to shed more light on the outbreak of the virus.

The municipality said officials from its health section were monitoring activities at informal trade areas and settlements. Intensive health education sessions and information sharing within the next few weeks will be carried out.

A registered nurse at Walvis Bay State Hospital, where most of the cases, were tested confirmed that there are more than five cases and said the majority of the people who tested positive for hepatitis E hailed from informal settlement areas in Kuisebmond.

“The majority reside at the Twalaloka settlement where there is a lack of water and sanitary provision. Other cases are scattered. We have not yet contained the outbreak, since it started only last month, and commenced with social mobilisation which involves visiting schools, churches and communities to inform and create awareness about hepatitis E.”

The municipality reacted rapidly in responding to the outbreak and launched campaigns to create awareness on food safety and good personal hygiene practices among residents and informal food traders in Walvis Bay.

The distribution of chlorine and soap for personal hygiene is underway, as well as the distribution of a leaflet in English and Oshiwambo covering the importance of hand-washing and street food safety .

The campaigns have been described as a great success, with public and informal food traders welcoming information sharing and very eagerly participating.

The municipality said its health section will continue to communicate with the ministry of health and social services on the outbreak and its status in Walvis Bay.

Cooperation with all the relevant stakeholders also resulted in a committee, with representatives of the ministry of health and social services (MoHSS), the municipality, Welwitschia hospital, Tunacor, Hangana Fishing, African Selection Management, Gendev, Seawork and Pereira Seafood to tackle the Walvis Bay outbreak.

The MoHSS declared a hepatitis E outbreak in Windhoek in November 2017 and since then several cases have been reported in other regions.

Cases were subsequently detected in Swakopmund, Omaruru, Henties Bay and Walvis Bay in the Erongo region, as stated by the MoHSS.

Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). The disease bears serious consequences, especially for pregnant women and those with a low immune system.

The virus is usually spread via the faecal-oral route and can be found in contaminated drinking water, and food including fruit, vegetables and meat. It may take symptoms two to ten weeks to appear after being exposed to the virus. Those with symptoms are advised to go to the nearest clinic or doctor to be tested.

BLOKKIES

Preventative measures

Wash your hands before and after using the toilet or changing a nappy, and before and after preparing food

Wash food and meats properly, and cook them well

Disinfect toilets and keep cooking utensils clean

Wash water storage containers every time it is empty and carry them in clean, covered containers

Only drink and cook with cooled, boiled water

Use clean cooking pots, plates and utensils

Only eat food and drink water from places where you trust that the food is cleaned before preparation and cooked properly

While shopping, disinfect trolleys and your hands when touching shared objects

When coming home from playing, riding in a taxi or from outside, wash your hands

Signs and symptoms

Yellow eyes and skin

Fever

Tiredness

Painful joints

Loss of appetite

Nausea

Vomiting

Stomach cramps

Dark colour urine

Light colour stools

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