February 22, 2006

More than 1,800 cases recorded in two weeks in non endemic area

Barcelona, February 22, 2006 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started an emergency intervention in southern Sudan in response to a severe cholera outbreak in Juba town. The first suspected cases in the region were reported at the end of January in the town of Yei, southwest of Juba. Since then the disease has spread quickly. On February 6, the first suspected case was identified in Juba. The cholera outbreak was confirmed a few days later. After 15 days, by February 21st, 1,864 cases and 45 deaths recorded.

After mounting an emergency response in Yei, MSF's new emergency intervention will focus on Juba, a town of more than 250,000 inhabitants and designated as the capital city of southern Sudan after the 2005 North-South peace agreement. The objective of the intervention is to reduce mortality of infected cases and to stop the spread of the disease. An MSF team is already working in a Cholera Treatment Center (CTC) set up in Al Shaaba pediatric hospital. MSF will ensure adequate treatment in the CTC, train local health staff, establish clear treatment protocols, and ensure regular supplies.

MSF is planning to increase the capacity of the CTC, and, if necessary, set up new structures in order to face the important number of new cases. For the time being, another CTC is in Juba teaching hospital, but it has already reached full capacity.

Apart from the case management, the MSF team is working toward a comprehensive strategy to respond to the outbreak. It is coordinating with other actors to ensure an effective referral system, accurate surveillance of the evolution of the outbreak, provision of safe drinking water, safe burials, and disinfection of patient homes. Since cholera is not endemic to the region, it is expected that the population will have limited knowledge about the transmission and prevention of the disease. Therefore, emphasis will also be put on educational activities.

The epidemic is affecting a non-endemic urban area where the population relies heavily on polluted water from the river Nile. For all these reasons, a large outbreak can be expected. MSF currently has 11 international staff working on the ground, to be reinforced with seven more people before this weekend. More than 70 tons of medical and logistics material will be sent to Juba in the coming days.