WHO confirms hepatitis E virus in Tanzania

The World Health Organization recently confirmed that a previously reported and unknown illness in Tanzania's Kigoma Region is the result of hepatitis E virus.

Fifteen out of the 46 samples tested at a lab in Nairobi, Kenya, were positive for hepatitis E. The WHO said arrangements are ongoing for molecular characterization tests and genotyping.

Between August 20 and October 29, the region's Buhigwe District experienced 690 acute febrile illness cases with no deaths. Most patients presented with vomiting, loss of appetite, generalized body weakness, abdominal pain, high fever and headache. A small proportion of the cases experienced diarrhea and jaundice.

There was a delay in detection and confirmation of the outbreak because most of the initial cases were treated as malaria, due to similar clinical symptoms.

Approximately 61 percent of reported cases occurred in individuals below the age of 15 years. Approximately 54 percent of the cases occurred in females.

After the hepatitis E outbreak was confirmed, Tanzania's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare began conducting further field investigations to determine the magnitude, source and risk factors for the outbreak. Prevention and control measures are ongoing.

The WHO did not recommend any trade or travel restrictions be applied to Tanzania with respect to the recent event.