Juba — The South Sudan Ministry of Health Undersecretary in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced the outbreak of Hepatitis E in three refugee camps namely; Jamam, Gendrassa and Yusuf Batil in Upper Nile particularly in Maban County.
According to the Undersecretary Dr. Makur Makur Kariom during a press conference yesterday in his office the first suspected cases of Acute Jaundice Syndrome (AJS) was first detected in the last week of July2012, in a health facility supported by MSF Holland in Jamam refugee camp.
Blood specimens collected from the suspected AJS cases were analysed in Kenya Medical Research Institute/Centre for disease control, USA reference Laboratory in Nairobi and nineteen (19) out of 34 specimens tested positive for Hepatitis E virus.
Yesterday he said, a total of 384 people suspected confirmed Hepatitis E cases and 16 death (case fatality rate of 4.2 have been reported from three refugee camps). Cases rise everyday placed immense pressure on the available health services and resources.
"This is of grave humanitarian concern given that Maban camps host 108,000 Sudanese refugees from Blue Nile State alone (UNHCR) in addition to the community. Hepatitis E is a virus that causes the infection of the liver and can be transmitted by consuming water and food contaminated with faeces," Kariom said.
He urged that, the virus spread in places with poor hygiene, where people do not use latrines to dispose of excreta, or do not wash their hands with soaps or ash after defecation. Water or food can get contaminated with faeces containing the Hepatitis E virus through drinking un-boiled or untreated water from the wells, dams or swamps; eating without washing hands with soap or ash; eating cold food or uncovered; eating raw food stuffs like mangoes, shea nut fruits without washing with clean water; lack of latrines to dispose of excreta; poor hygiene practice, open defecation, disposing of children's faeces in open; allowing animals like, pigs, goats, cattle to move freely and drop faeces in the community around water points.
Hepatitis E is characterized by fever, heart burn, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, general body pain and weakness. Loss of appetite, body itching, dark, concerned urine and yellowing of the eyes, it is common in young adults aged between 15-40 years. Pregnant women are at greater risk of death (20%),"he said.
On spread of virus, the Health Ministry in collaboration with UNHCR, WHO and health partners have put in place additional preventive and control measures in all four refugee camps in Maban County ( Doro, Jamam, Yusuf Batil and Gendrassa).
A large-scale health outreach and hygiene campaign is on-going in all the camps but MoH will continue to; enhance surveillance, conduct active (tent-to-tent) case finding, improve case management, improve wash activities (water chlorination, increase the number of hand-washing points, soap distribution and increase availability of latrines) and conduct personal hygiene promotion at community and market places.
To ensure interruption and containment of the transmission of the virus, the Ministry is appealling to all partners to sustain preventive and control measures before it spreads to other camps surrounding communities. The Ministry is also appealling to donors and UN agencies to provide technical financial resources to support all the needed interventions, Kariom concluded.