A group of medical experts is calling for urgent measures to introduce a Hepatitis E vaccine in Nepal, warning that a summer outbreak of the virus could lead to the deaths of more than 500 pregnant women. After the devastating earthquake in April this year, thousands of people are living in makeshift camps with limited or no access to clean water. As the virus spreads through contaminated water, experts fear a deadly outbreak when monsoon rains start in July. This strain of hepatitis leaves pregnant women particularly vulnerable, with a mortality rate of 25 percent. Warning of a “high and imminent” risk, the experts wrote, “Earthquake-affected areas are faced with a ‘perfect storm’ of risk factors: large displaced populations with limited access to clean drinking water, a lack of sanitary facilities, the approaching monsoon, an overburdened health care infrastructure, large amounts of circulating HEV and an at-risk population who mostly lack protective antibodies.” The doctors called for a speedy introduction of the vaccine, which is currently only licensed for use in China.
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