Hepatitis E cases on the rise in South Sudan refugee camps

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An elderly refugee is given medical care on arrival at a camp in South Sudan. © UNHCR/B.Sokol

More than 100 people have died in refugee camps in South Sudan in recent months after contracting the Hepatitis E virus. The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says that more than 6,000 refugees have been infected with the virus since July, leading to 111 deaths.

Hepatitis E damages the liver, and is transmitted by consuming contaminated food or water.

Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for UNHCR, says that the outbreak appears to originate from the Blue Nile State.

"Most of the refugees in camps where the disease is most widespread are from Blue Nile State, where there are few established latrines and uncontaminated water is hard to come by. The growth in the population due to the refugee influx from Blue Nile could be one of the factors behind the rapid spread of the disease that we've been seeing."

There is no treatment or approved vaccine for Hepatitis E, but there are certain measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection, including washing hands with soap, especially after using the toilet, drinking clean water, using latrines and eating only fruit and vegetables that have been cooked.

Nicki Chadwick, UN Radio, Geneva

Duration: 1’11″

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