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Published On: Thu, Jan 31st, 2013

UN: More than 3,300 South Sudan refugees infected with hepatitis E

The UN refugee agency has reported a surge in the number of cases of Hepatitis E in the four refugee camps near the South Sudan border, according to a recent UNHCR press release.

Image/CIA

Image/CIA

The UN agency says 3,319 people have been infected with the viral disease, hepatitis E. The numbers have tripled since the UNHCR reported 1,050 cases back in November.

Of the more than 3,000 cases, 69 people have died from the viral liver disease.

The increase in the number of cases and suspected cases has mainly affected the Yusuf Batil camp, which alone accounted for 1,908 cases, including 39 deaths, or 71 percent of all reported new cases. The camp currently holds 36,371 refugees.

“The hepatitis E situation is of serious concern to the government of the Republic of South Sudan, and I appeal to all partners to put every effort to contain the outbreak as soon as possible,” Dr. Samson Paul Baba, the government’s Director General, Community and Public Health, said after visiting the camps this week.

Although hepatitis E is endemic in the area, officials say there is no indication that the disease outbreak has spread into the local communities.

UN officials say in an effort to contain the outbreak, hundreds of latrines are being built and soap distribution to the refugee camps will be increased.

In addition, plans are under way to replace about 22,000 10-liter capacity jerry cans, household water containers which can become a source of infection if filled with contaminated water. An additional 5,000 buckets are expected to arrive in the camp in the coming days and an additional borehole is currently 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.

There have been several cases of hepatitis E infection in France due to eating raw figatellu, which is made with pig liver.

The risk of infection is high in densely populated settings such as refugee camps.

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.

Hepatitis E is found endemically in countries that have inadequate environmental sanitation. It is most frequently seen in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Middle East.

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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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  1. Update: Doctors Without Borders treats nearly 4,000 refugees for hepatitis E in South Sudan - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] a follow up to a report earlier this week, the epidemic of hepatitis E is escalating across refugee camps in South Sudan’s Maban […]

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