An outbreak of the viral liver disease, Hepatitis E, has infected hundreds and killed 150 refugees at  Kalma camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) in South Darfur, according to a Sudan Tribune report Thursday.

Sudan map/CIA
Sudan map/CIA

The dead were mostly pregnant women, elderly  and children according to the humanitarian affairs officer for the IDP’s, Essa Salih. Salih also notes that the proliferation of the disease was caused by malnutrition and lack of adequate health services inside the camp.

Hepatitis E became the biggest threat to IDP’s in South Darfur state following expulsion of foreign aid groups in 2009.

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 water. However, people can also contract the virus through contaminatedfood, 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 pregnantwomen.

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

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