DAKAR, Feb 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hundreds of
people in southeastern Chad are at risk of dying from a
worsening hepatitis E outbreak which has killed 11 people since
September, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said
Some 885 people in the Salamat region have been treated for
symptoms of jaundice, which can indicate hepatitis E, MSF said.
Most, if not all of the patients, are likely to be suffering
from hepatitis E, a liver disease which spreads through water
contaminated with faeces, the aid group said. It has recorded 70
cases and 11 deaths, including four pregnant women, to date.
However, the death toll from the outbreak could be higher
due to cases which may not have been treated in health
facilities, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
More than 600 MSF staff are working alongside Chad's health
ministry to test for new cases, treat patients and improve water
supplies and sanitation in the regional capital of Am Timan.
The aid group said it had also rolled out a large scale
chlorination campaign at the 72 water points in Am Timan, and is
holding education sessions to explain the importance of
handwashing with soap and chlorinated water.
In a statement, MSF's head of mission in Chad, Rolland Kaya,
called for more aid agencies to step in to improve water
sanitation in the region amid mounting cases of the disease.
"As a medical organisation, it is not usually MSF's job to
intervene on a large scale in water chlorination activities, but
with no other options to help stop the spread of the virus, we
are obliged to fill this gap," Kaya added.
Hepatitis E affects an estimated 20 million people around
the world each year, with typical symptoms including jaundice,
dark urine and pale stools, abdominal pain and tenderness,
nausea and vomiting, fever, and an enlarged, tender liver.
For most people, the infection runs its course with a few
long-term complications, but the mortality rate for pregnant
women is about 25 percent. An effective vaccine for the virus is
currently only licensed for use in China.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.