Lamwo Steps Up Surveillance Over Fresh Hepatitis E, Cholera Outbreak

1599 Views Lamwo, Uganda

In short
Lamwo district has stepped up disease surveillance efforts along its border following fresh outbreak of Hepatitis E and Cholera in neighbouring states of South Sudan.

Lamwo district has stepped up disease surveillance along its border following fresh outbreak of Hepatitis E and Cholera in neighbouring states of South Sudan.
The district leaders held an emergency meeting last week to rejuvenate the task force formed in April 2012 to conduct extensive surveillance at the border, according to Charles Obong Okwera, the Secretary General of Lamwo Sub county Chairpersons Association.
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The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in South Sudan said on September 6th that Cholera has killed 139 people and infected more than 6,000 others. It says most of the new cases are coming from Pagar in Central Equatoria State and Torit and Ikotos counties in Eastern Equatoria State.
Meanwhile five new cases of Hepatitis E have been reported in Mingkaman areas of Lakes States, bringing the cumulative total to 100 cases. The virus has killed four people according to the latest statement released by UNOCHA.
Dr. Charles Oyo Akiya, the Lamwo district Health Officer, confirmed to Uganda Radio Network on phone that there is yet no cause for alarm although several health workers have been put on high alert. Dr. Oyo says Lamwo has restocked enough supplies for Hepatitis E treatment in addition to maintaining a functional district rapid response Team or task force.
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The district health officer says  past outbreaks have given them adequate experience in diagnosing, treating and controlling the water borne diseases.
But politicians are not taking it for granted. They say daily trade and communications with the neighbours who depend on Uganda for food potentially endangers the border point and beyond.
Charles Okwera, the Madi Opei Sub county chairperson, says constant border surveillance is what helped his sub county to contain the outbreak of Cholera in December 2013. He says with fresh outbreak across border, all village health teams have been alerted to increase vigilance.
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Okwera says the Ministry of Health has already stationed a resident Laboratory technician at Madi Opei health centre IV, the biggest surveillance hub in the district. The technician is charged with analyzing samples collected from the border district.
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UNOCHA says heavy rains and floods have decreased access to parts of Mingkaman and Yalkot, preventing the mobile clinic from reaching those in need.
According to Okwera, South Sudanese seek treatment in Uganda due to challenges within their own health system. The country has virtually been at war since 1983, when the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) launched a war to liberate the region from the Arab rule. South Sudan was eventually granted independence in July 2011, but war broke out again in December last year following a disagreement between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Dr Riek Machar.
Okwera tells Uganda Radio Network that the 2009 Hepatitis E outbreak in Kitgum was traced to have come from across the border. The first large scale epidemic of hepatitis E struck at least 18,000 people in Madi-Opei Sub County in Lamwo in 2009. A total of 180 people died when it spread to neighbouring Kitgum district.
Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease transmitted via the faecal-oral route. Contaminated water or food supplies have been implicated in major outbreaks.


About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.