Doctors Without Borders responds to South Sudan hepatitis E outbreak

Doctors Without Borders has treated 3,991 patients with hepatitis E in an recent outbreak escalating across refugee camps in Maban County, South Sudan, that has resulted in 88 deaths.

The cases of the virus first appeared in June. The outbreak spread because of poor water and sanitation conditions, including limited access to working latrines, too few hand washing points and inadequate distribution of clean water.

"We have been doing everything we can to care for people with hepatitis E, but there is no treatment for the disease," José-Luis Dvorzak, Doctors Without Borders' medical coordinator in Maban County, said. "We suspect this outbreak is far from over, and many more people will die."

Hepatitis E causes liver disease and can lead to acute liver failure and death. The virus is particularly dangerous for pregnant women. Hepatitis E has no cure, though the symptoms can be treated.

Three of the refugee camps - Jamam, Gendrassa and Batil - have had the most cases since the outbreak began. More than 110,000 Sudanese refugees live in the camps.

"The refugee camps should not only be a place of safety from conflict, but also a place where refugees can stay alive and are safe from preventable diseases and outbreaks," Laurence Sailly, Doctors Without Borders' emergency coordinator in Doro camp, said.

MSF teams are caring for hepatitis E patients and carrying out emergency gap-filling activities, such as treating and distributing water. Doctors Without Borders has worked in Maban County since November 2011.