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Open Access Research article

Clinical and epidemiological aspects of a hepatitis E outbreak in Bangui, Central African Republic

Alice I Goumba, Xavier Konamna and Narcisse P Komas*

Author affiliations

Viral Hepatitis Laboratory, Institut Pasteur de Bangui, PO Box 923, Bangui, Central African Republic

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Citation and License

BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:93  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-93

Published: 14 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Outbreaks of hepatitis E frequently occur in tropical developing countries during the rainy season due to overflowing drains, short-circuiting of networks of clean water and use of contaminated water from wells. Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections are usually accompanied by general symptoms of acute liver disease. This study was conducted to define the clinical and epidemiological aspects of the HEV outbreak that occurred in May 2004 in Bangui.

Methods

Blood samples were collected from 411 patients aged 1-87 years, most of whom presented with jaundice, asthenia or signs of uncomplicated malaria, for a transversal study from June 2004 to September 2005. Patients were recruited at 11 health care centres, including two referral hospitals, after they had given informed consent. The diagnosis of HEV was made with a commercial ELISA test to detect IgM and/or IgG antibodies. HEV RNA was amplified by RT-PCR to confirm the presence of the viral genome.

Results

The most frequent clinical signs found were jaundice (93.4%), vomiting (50.7%), hepatalgia (47.4%), hepatomegaly (30.9%) and asthenia (26.8%), which are the general clinical signs of hepatic disease. Acute hepatitis E was found in 213 patients (51.8%) who were positive for HEV IgM antibodies. The IgG anti-HEV seroprevalence during this outbreak was high (79.5%). The age group 18-34 years was more frequently infected (91.2%) than those aged 1-17 (78.0%) or over 34 (64.9%) (p < 10-6). RT-PCR performed on 127 sera from the 213 IgM-HEV-positive patients was amplified, and the presence of the viral genome was found in 65 samples.

Conclusion

Although no specific clinical signs exist for hepatitis E infection, people presenting with jaundice, vomiting, hepatalgia, asthenia, hepatomegaly or distended abdomen with no signs of uncomplicated malaria in tropical developing countries should be sent to a laboratory for testing for hepatitis E.