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» 15.08.2008 - Hepatitis kills 106 in Uganda
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Health | Society

More than 120 die of hepatitis in Uganda

afrol News, 4 September - At least nine people have died from an outbreak of hepatitis in northern Uganda bringing death toll to more than 120 in the past fortnight, since the epidemic erupted last October.

An outbreak of hepatitis E in northern Uganda has killed at least 9 people in four remote districts bringing death toll to 106 people since last October as it continues to spread across the region.

The death toll from the Hepatitis E epidemic in northern Uganda has risen from 114 to 123 in the last fortnight while the number of infected people rose from 7,331to 7,757 in the same period, according to health ministry.

Ministry's director for clinical services Kenya Mugisha said outbreak has mainly affected displaced residents in Kitgum due to poor hygiene.

"These people are moving from IDP camps to areas with no facilities. They have poor hygiene and sanitation," Mugisha said, adding that 836 new infections have been reported since 14 August.

Mr Mugisha said hygiene-related diseases are still a challenge to Uganda, adding that if everybody throughout the country could ensure proper disposal of human waste, risk of diseases like Hepatitis E, cholera and dysentery would be lessened.

Government launched an emergency response plan last month to contain epidemic in affected districts, with a focus on sensitising local people of proper hygiene and improving sanitation in camps for displaced.

World Health Organisation (WHO), which has been supporting district's Hepatitis E task force, said there has been a drastic decline in infection rate in Kitgum district, further indicating district remains worst-hit by disease due to poor hygiene.

Kitgum Chairman, Komakech John Ogwok, said continued spread of hepatitis has forced council to enact by-laws aimed at controlling disease. Some of them include; banning use of water pots and drinking of local fermented drink believed to be a prime means of transmission.

Mr Ogwok, who is also chairperson of district Hepatitis Task Force, claimed jerricans and chlorine provided under government and WHO emergency programme have not helped to check spread of disease.

Northern Uganda is emerging from two decades of civil war and its tens of thousands of displaced inhabitants still living in camps are particularly vulnerable.

Since a fragile truce brought an end to violence two years ago, some residents have started returning to their native villages.

Hepatitis E has a low mortality rate compared with hepatitis B and C and is spread by eating contaminated food or drinking water.

According to a WHO report, approximately 70 percent of deaths have occurred among pregnant women.

Uganda has recently been hit by a series of epidemics including; ebola, meningitis, cholera, bubonic plague in West Nile and yellow fever. A rare strain of cholera ravaged eastern Uganda in June, killing 28 of 350 people who were infected.

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