Tackling the hepatitis E outbreak

Hundreds of households were visited during a hepatitis E awareness campaign in Walvis Bay.

08 April 2019 | Health

Walvis Bay - Otis Finck

The ongoing outbreak of hepatitis E in several parts of the country prompted a proactive approach by the municipality of Walvis Bay to prevent and minimise the incidence of the disease since the outbreak in Swakopmund in June 2018.

A number of measures were taken in an attempt to avert incidences of the disease long before the outbreak in the harbour town was reported by the ministry of health and social services on 19 February.

The first course of action was to identify and visit high risk areas, such as informal settlements in Walvis Bay, and tackle these as a priority.

A health promotion campaign was launched in the third quarter of 2018. Three thousand leaflets covering the importance of hand washing and street food safety was translated into Oshiwambo and distributed in June 2018.

Officials from the ministry and HIV/Aids coordinators from the Constituency Aids Coordinating Committee (CACOC) also held a planning meeting on 21 July 2018.

The attendees were divided into six groups and tasked to cover a number of hot spots, including Ekutu Market, the hawker’s stalls at Kuisebmond Community Hall, informal trade areas at Erf 2188 near Kuisebmond soccer stadium, Shop 4 Value, Mica Street, Kuisebmond Market Mall, EBH, Seapride and Ben Amathila Street, as well as all taxi ranks.

Ongoing action and prevention of hepatitis E included the training of formal and informal food handlers in September 2018.

A health promotion campaign was also introduced for committee members of Twaloloka and Nara settlements in on January 15,18 and 26.

The health team ensured that all households receive health education, as well as free disinfectant and a bar of sunlight soap with the campaign.

An information stall was put up where the disinfectant product was introduced.

Health education on general hygiene practices was coupled with demonstrations on how to use the disinfectant. Residents were also urged to use the disinfectant to wash their water drums, utensils, mop their floors and disinfect night soil buckets.

Households received a sachet of chlorine and a safety cap to keep containers used for water properly closed and to prevent children from drinking the chlorine mix.

Members of the health team went from door to door to present health education to those who were not reached on the first day. More disinfectant was distributed and each household received four satches of chlorine providing 20 litres of solution when diluted.

All households at both settlements were covered during the five days of the campaign.

The health section carried out another promotional campaign on 12, 13, 14 and 16 March.

Health officers returned to the informal community. They once again provided health education, and distributed sunlight soap and chlorine disinfectant at Twaloloka and Nara. Kilimanjaro and Andes Street as well as Heamtie Street were also included.

Health officers are still busy with the campaign at Ekutu Katika where a committee representative was trained in handling the distribution of chlorine disinfectant and sunlight soap.

The above measures were complemented with community information sharing and awareness creating sessions in Kuisebmond and Narraville.

During these sessions registered nurses Kelly Crowther and Maria Angala emphasised that there is currently no hepatitis E vaccination available in Namibia and that prevention is the best protection against infection.

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