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Published On: Sat, Feb 16th, 2013

Death toll from South Sudan hepatitis E outbreak up to 111

In a follow-up to a story two weeks ago, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday said that an outbreak of hepatitis E has affected more than 6,000 people in South Sudan refugee camps since July and added that 111 of them had died.

South Sudan Image/CIA

South Sudan
Image/CIA

The largest number of cases and suspected cases, almost 70 per cent, is in the Yusuf Batil camp in Upper Nile state which holds 37,229 refugees, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Other camps hard hit by the viral disease outbreak include Jamam, Gendrassa and Doro.

The majority of refugees in camps where the disease is most widespread are from Blue Nile state, an isolated rural area in Sudan where there are few established toilet facilities and uncontaminated water is not readily available,” said UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards.

According to the UNHCR release, emergency measures are being taken to curb the increase, with about 70 per cent of the 701 latrines under construction in Yusuf Batil completed and the remainder expected to be operating by this weekend. In the Doro Camp region, 65 per cent of the 323 latrines being built in the most affected areas around Jumjum and Ingasana villages have been completed.

Other steps being taken include additional soap distribution at Yusuf Batil comprising 168,000 bars, more than doubling the monthly rate of 250 grammes per month per person. Further soap distributions, especially for washing hands, will continue to be carried out.

Plans are under way to replace about 22,000 10-litre capacity jerrycans – which can become a source of infection if filled with contaminated water. An additional 5,000 buckets are also being shipped to Yusuf Batil and a supplemental borehole is being drilled.

Hepatitis E has been the cause of several outbreaks and sporadic cases over large geographical regions. The hepatitis E virus is contracted and spread through consuming contaminated food and water. However, people can also contract the virus through contaminated food, transmission from animals to humans, blood transfusions and from pregnant women to their newborn.

The clinical course of hepatitis E is similar to that of hepatitis A with no chronic form of the disease. Jaundice, fever, loss of appetite and lethargy are common symptoms.

Much like hepatitis A, the fatality rate is low with the exception of pregnant women where it can reach 20% among those infected in the third trimester. Liver failure is a frequent outcome with pregnant women.

There is no treatment for acute hepatitis E,  therefore, prevention is key.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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