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Acute viral hepatitis morbidity and mortality associated with hepatitis E virus infection: Uzbekistan surveillance data

Makhmudkhan B Sharapov1, Michael O Favorov234, Tatiana L Yashina5, Matthew S Brown3, Gennady G Onischenko6, Harold S Margolis27 and Terence L Chorba8*

Author Affiliations

1 Tashkent Pediatric Medical Institute and Central Asia Epidemiology Network, Ministry of Health, Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan

2 Division of Viral Hepatitis (World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Research and Reference in Viral Hepatitis), National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

3 Coordinating Office for Global Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

4 Division of Translational Research, International Vaccine Institute, Seoul, Korea

5 Specialty Laboratories, Santa Monica, California, USA

6 Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights and Wellbeing, Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia

7 Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative Program, International Vaccine Institute, Seoul, Korea

8 Office of the Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:35  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-35

Published: 25 March 2009



In Uzbekistan, routine serologic testing has not been available to differentiate etiologies of acute viral hepatitis (AVH). To determine the age groups most affected by hepatitis E virus (HEV) during documented AVH epidemics, trends in AVH-associated mortality rate (MR) per 100,000 over a 15-year period and reported incidence of AVH over a 35-year period were examined.


Reported AVH incidence data from 1971 to 2005 and AVH-associated mortality data from 1981 to 1995 were examined. Serologic markers for infection with hepatitis viruses A, B, D, and E were determined from a sample of hospitalized patients with AVH from an epidemic period (1987) and from a sample of pregnant women with AVH from a non-epidemic period (1992).


Two multi-year AVH outbreaks were identified: one during 1975–1976, and one during 1985–1987. During 1985–1987, AVH-associated MRs were 12.3–17.8 per 100,000 for the general population. Highest AVH-associated MRs occurred among children in the first 3 years of life (40–190 per 100,000) and among women aged 20–29 (15–21 per 100,000). During 1988–1995 when reported AVH morbidity was much lower in the general population, AVH-associated MRs were markedly lower among these same age groups. In 1988, AVH-associated MRs were higher in rural (21 per 100,000) than in urban (8 per 100,000) populations (RR 2.6; 95% CI 1.16–5.93; p < 0.05). Serologic evidence of acute HEV infection was found in 280 of 396 (71%) patients with AVH in 1987 and 12 of 99 (12%) pregnant patients with AVH in 1992.


In the absence of the availability of confirmatory testing, inferences regarding probable hepatitis epidemic etiologies can sometimes be made using surveillance data, comparing AVH incidence with AVH-associated mortality with an eye to population-based viral hepatitis control measures. Data presented here implicate HEV as the probable etiology of high mortality observed in pregnant women and in children less than 3 years of age in Uzbekistan during 1985–1987. High mortality among pregnant women but not among children less than 3 years has been observed in previous descriptions of epidemic hepatitis E. The high mortality among younger children observed in an AVH outbreak associated with hepatitis E merits corroboration in future outbreaks.