A woman has died shortly after giving birth, and 26 other people have been confirmed infected in an outbreak of Hepatitis E in Windhoek, Namibia, this month. The majority of people infected (16) have come from the Havana informal settlement, with cases also reported in Goreangab Dam, Hakana, Greewell Matongo, Katutura, and Ombili. The liver disease, which is spread through feaces, is not usually fatal in healthy individuals, but is considered dangerous to pregnant women and people with compremised immune systems.
The Havana informal settlement to the northeast of Windhoek, Namibia. The Villager.
Hepatitis E is caused by a single-stranded, nonenveloped, RNA Virus, and is usually a self-limiting infection, causing fever, nausia, loss of apatite, vomiting, jaunduce, abdominal and joint pain and discolouration of the urine and stool, which typically passes within 2-6 weeks. However in some cases the disease can cause acute liver failure (hepatitis) which is often fatal. Pregnant women are considered to be at particular risk from this disease, with a fatality rate of about 30%, compared to about 1% for the general population.
A large number of informal, and often illegal, settlements have sprung up around Windhoek in the past decade, with people, and their livestock, migrating from the Rehoboth, Usakos, Brumgardbum areas, and probably further afield, to escape a prolonged draught in those areas. The city has struggled to cope with this influx, and has at times attempted to remove the settlers with fines and other coercion rather than providing facilities such as sanitation, a stratergy which has done little to solve the problem and which has led to a series of legal battles with voluntary organisations representing the settlers.
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