South Africa’s neighbours, Lesotho and Namibia, have been hit by disease outbreaks, says a Cape Times report. Lesotho has reported measles in the Qacha’s Nek district, while a protracted outbreak of hepatitis E in Namibia continues to be closely monitored, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. The current outbreak of measles in Lesotho, which the ministry of health reported to the WHO at the end of October, is the first in nearly 10 years.
According to the report, Lesotho authorities reported the cases to the WHO after four serum samples that were tested by the National Reference Laboratory in Maseru came in with a positive result for the measles virus. Public health measures are being put in place to contain the outbreak while the WHO has encouraged Maseru to improve disease surveillance performance with the emphasis on training front-line workers in case identification and reporting.
Lesotho is experiencing its first measles outbreak in almost 10 years, which is occurring in a previously unaffected area, the WHO African regional office said today in its weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report.
The country, which only reported one measles case in 2018, has targeted measles as one of the diseases for elimination, and surveillance guidelines define an outbreak as three or more cases confirmed from the same health facility. On Oct 26, Lesotho's health ministry notified the WHO of a measles outbreak in remote Oacha Nek district, based on 4 positive blood tests collected from 50 suspected case-patients who visited the same health facility with symptoms that included fever and body rash. Most of the patients are children ages 5 to 12 years old. One of the samples was positive for rubella.
Vaccine coverage for measles vaccine has been low in the affected district for the past 4 years, and coverage was 65% for 2019. However, the WHO said Lesotho's national coverage has remained high. A mass vaccination campaign is being planned for the affected area, targeting children ages 9 months to 15 years.
In Namibia the WHO’s last bulletin in August reported 453 additional cases of hepatitis E but no deaths related to the outbreak. The outbreak that was declared in December 2017 in Windhoek’s informal settlements and a fluctuating trend in the weekly incidence of cases has been observed since the beginning of the outbreak, according to the WHO. The major drivers of the outbreak remain the same, limited access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor personal and food safety practices. Novel initiatives are therefore needed to address the outbreak such as finalising the review of the relevance and feasibility of a vaccination intervention. There is also a need to sustain conventional control activities, particularly in the informal settlements, and strengthen surveillance and coordination mechanisms in all the affected areas.
“There is a need to sustain conventional hepatitis E control activities, particularly in the informal settlements, and strengthen surveillance and co-ordination mechanisms in all the affected areas. There is also a need to accelerate the process of endorsement and implementation of the costed national response plan,” the WHO said.
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