Hepatitis E cases drop significantly

29 November 2021 | Health

Windhoek • Ellanie Smit

Hepatitis E cases in Namibia have shown a major decline since the outbreak started in 2017, while deaths have dropped to zero from January to June.

This is according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report summarising the WHO's support for the health ministry’s response to the outbreak.

The project was completed in June this year.

“With contribution from Japan, WHO and the ministry, deaths due to the hepatitis E virus reduced from 23 in 2019 to four deaths in 2020. There have been no deaths due to HEV since January 2021. The number of new reported cases remains relatively low,” the report says.

Four years

Health workers in Namibia first noted an increase in the number of hepatitis E cases in Windhoek in September 2017.

In December 2017, the health ministry declared a hepatitis E outbreak, which soon spread throughout the country, beginning in April 2018 and eventually affected all the regions except Zambezi.

Cases have been reported mainly in Windhoek’s informal settlements such as Havana and Goreangab, DRC settlement in Swakopmund and in settings in other regions where access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is limited.

Statistics provided in the report indicate that cumulative cases as of May this year stood at 8 062 since the start of the outbreak, with 61.8% of all reported cases from the Khomas Region and 21.2% from the Erongo Region.

The remaining regions represented 21.2% of all reported cases.

“There has been a noticeable decline in new infections from 2 689 in 2019 to 983 in 2020. There has also been a decline in the reported deaths from 23 deaths in 2019 to four deaths in 2020.”

Crisis response

The report says the project aimed at improving the national preparedness and response capacity to contain infectious disease outbreaks and drought-related public health events in Namibia from March 2020 to June this year.

In response to the hepatitis E outbreak, the WHO in Namibia received a N$4 million grant from Japan for strengthening of regional capacity to implement effective response interventions in partnership with the health ministry.

This funding was targeted to intensify response activities in the Khomas, Erongo, Omusati, Ohangwena, Kavango East and West.

A total of 67 200 leaflets and posters on hepatitis E and nutrition were printed in different languages, while 13 484 people in Khomas and Erongo were reached with health education messages through the project.

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