First reported outbreak of locally acquired hepatitis E virus infection in Australia

Chaturangi M. Yapa, Catriona Furlong, Alexander Rosewell, Kate A. Ward, Sheena Adamson, Craig Shadbolt, Jen Kok, Samantha L Tracy, Scott Bowden, Elizabeth J. Smedley, Mark J. Ferson, Vicky Sheppeard, Jeremy M. McAnulty

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17 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To determine the source and extent of a locally acquired hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection outbreak.

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: A cluster of notified cases of HEV infection linked to a single restaurant (X) was identified in May 2014. People with laboratory-confirmed HEV infection in New South Wales between January 2013 and December 2014 were interviewed about potential risk factors for HEV infection. Co-diners at restaurant X and patients with suspected but unexplained viral hepatitis were retrospectively tested. Foods eaten by the infected persons were compared with those of seronegative co-diners. HEV RNA detected in sera from infected persons was sequenced and genotyped. Implicated foods were traced back to their sources.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Potential sources of infection, including overseas travel and foods eaten, and origin of implicated food products.

RESULTS: In 55 serologically confirmed cases of HEV infection, 24 people had not travelled overseas during their incubation periods. Of the 24, 17 reported having eaten at restaurant X, 15 of whom could be interviewed. All reported consuming pork liver pâté, compared with only four of seven uninfected co-diners (P < 0.05). The other seven people with locally acquired infections each reported consuming a pork product during their incubation periods. HEV RNA was detected in 16 of the 24 cases; all were of genotype 3. Sequencing indicated greater than 99% homology among restaurant X isolates. HEV RNA was isolated from pork sausages from a batch implicated in one of the locally acquired infections not linked with restaurant X. The pork livers used for pâté preparation by restaurant X were traced to a single Australian farm.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first reported HEV outbreak in Australia. HEV should be considered in patients presenting with a compatible illness, even without a history of overseas travel. Pork products should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274.e1-274.e6
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

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