Epidemic of hepatitis E in a military unit in Abbotrabad, Pakistan.

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  • 1 Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799, USA. Bryanjp@state.gov

An outbreak of hepatitis caused by hepatitis E virus (HEV) in Abbottabad, Pakistan was traced to fecal contamination of a water system. Of 109 men hospitalized with hepatitis, 104 (95%) had serologic evidence of acute hepatitis E (IgM antibody to HEV [anti-HEV]), three (3%) probably had acute hepatitis E (high titers of IgG anti-HEV without IgM), and two had acute hepatitis A. Among a subset of 44 men with acute hepatitis E from whom three serum specimens were obtained over a four-month period, the anti-HEV IgG geometric mean titers (GMTs) decreased from 1,519 during the outbreak to 657 at four months. The IgM anti-HEV was detected in 40 (91%) of 44 sera obtained at admission (GMT = 533 during acute disease), but in only six (14%) four months later. The prevalence of anti-HEV in this population before the outbreak was estimated to be 30%. The presence of IgG anti-HEV appeared to protect against clinical hepatitis or development of serologic evidence of new infection with HEV. This is the second major epidemic of hepatitis E in the Pakistani military confirmed by an anti-HEV enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Evidence that pre-existing antibody as measured by this ELISA protects against disease is important for assessment of vaccine development.

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