By John Agaba
The number of people killed by the viral liver disease, Hepatitis E, in Napak district has reached 15.
Last week, the death toll stood at 13, while 344 others were infected. Now the number of reported cases stands at 453, according to the health ministry.
Rukia Nakamatte, the ministry spokesperson, said 10 of the dead are pregnant women. Of the four (4) patients with severe conditions admitted at Matany Hospital, three (3) are pregnant women. Others are being monitored in their homes.
She said the disease which was first reported in June last year, although the situation worsened around October, was largely a hygiene problem.
“Pregnant women are the most affected because of low immunity,” said Nakamatte.
She explained: “Any woman, when she becomes pregnant, her immunity r educes, making her susceptible.”
Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus, a non-enveloped virus transmitted mainly through contaminated drinking water.
The infection usually resolves between four (4) and six weeks, occasionally developing into acute liver failure, which can lead to death.
Globally, there are approximately 20 million incidents of Hepatitis E infections and 57, 000 related deaths every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Hepatitis E is found in faces of infected individuals and is spread by eating foods or taking drinks that are contaminated with feaces.
The disease is commonly seen in communities that do not have clean water and pit latrines.
The ministry attributed the outbreak in Napak to unsafe water, from sources such as rivers and ponds, poor sanitation and hygiene and low pit latrine coverage.
Nakamatte said that the Karamoja region, where Napak is found, is prone to Hepatitis E because of its low pit latrine coverage and lack of safe drinking water.
Over 75% of households in the 27, 000 sqkm sub-region lack access to pit latrines.
She, however, said that the ministry was to conduct special health training sessions for health workers at Matany Hospital and other neighboring health facilities in managing the disease.
“There is an influx of patients at the hospital. When people have a headache they come and report and that is why in a period of a week we have recorded more 60 cases,” said Nakamatte.
She said the situation was under control and that the ministry will continue dispatching all the necessary logistics and medical supplies to the hospital.