The Namibian Ministry of Health has warned members of the public against shaking hands in order to minimize the spread of the Hepatitis E virus.

Namibia Image/Alvaro1984 18
Image/ Alvaro1984 18

At least 24 people have died and 3 000 suspected cases have been reported since the outbreak was detected in the capital Windhoek in December last year. Of these, 462 are laboratory-confirmed cases.

In a statement circulated to local media houses on Friday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Ben Nangombe said the outbreak is spreading fast due to poor public hygiene standards.

Nangombe said to minimize the risk of new infections, people should avoid shaking hands at public gatherings such as funerals, weddings, parties and other mass social events.

“One does not know where the other person has been, so it is better to avoid shaking hands. Hepatitis E spreads very fast, especially in places where people are not washing their hands,” Nangombe said.

He said Hepatitis generally breeds in areas where people relieve themselves in the open, use sub-standards ablution facilities and do not practice hand-washing.

Organizers of upcoming public events were advised to provide enough safe drinking water, hand-washing facilities with running water and adequate sanitation facilities with operational handwashing stations.

Food should be fully covered food to minimize the risk of infection. Most of the people affected by the current outbreak come from sprawling squatter camps in Namibia’s urban areas.