WINDHOEK, Namibia, December 12, 2018/ — The U.S. Embassy in Namibia, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continued its assistance to help Namibia control the hepatitis E outbreak by announcing the handover of 600 hepatitis E rapid test kits and personal protective equipment to the Ministry of Health and Social Services. This support is a continuation of the ongoing assistance CDC has been providing to the Ministry, including three technical assistance visits from six subject matter experts during the year that has provided intensive capacity-building support to improve the epidemiological investigation. This support will continue, with the next stage being to support the Ministry to conduct a knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) study that will help identify the specific type of hepatitis E virus that is affecting the country and better pinpoint the reasons for ongoing cases.
The use of these kits in the field and in clinics and hospitals will allow for the immediate diagnosis of hepatitis E, rapidly reducing the time to diagnose infections. Currently, a diagnosis is confirmed through a blood test, which on average requires more than one week to produce results and takes even longer in the regions.
The kits will be distributed systematically for use in the field and at facilities that have a high volume of pregnant women. These test kits will be particularly useful for the diagnosis of pregnant woman who are most vulnerable to hepatitis E infection. As of 29 November, there have been a total of 34 deaths, of which 16 (47%) were pregnant or post-partum women.
At the handover, U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson said, “Because pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the infection, which can be life-threatening during pregnancy, the time saved during diagnosis may well save the lives of those who use these rapid tests kits.” The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Benjamin Nangombe said, “Hepatitis E is a disease of multiple factors, and putting in place the interventions needed is challenging. The Ministry of Health and Social Services welcomes the donation of these rapid test kits.”