Outbreak of hepatitis e in urban Bangladesh resulting in maternal and perinatal mortality

Emily S. Gurley, M. Jahangir Hossain, Repon C. Paul, Hossain M.S. Sazzad, M. Saiful Islam, Shahana Parveen, Labib I. Faruque, Mushtuq Husain, Khorshed Ara, Yasmin Jahan, Mahmudur Rahman, Stephen P. Luby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background. Hepatitis E virus (HEV) causes outbreaks of jaundice associated with maternal mortality. Four deaths among pregnant women with jaundice occurred in an urban community near Dhaka, Bangladesh, in late 2008 and were reported to authorities in January 2009. We investigated the etiology and risk factors for jaundice and death. Methods. Field workers identified suspected cases, defined as acute onset of yellow eyes or skin, through house-to-house visits. A subset of persons with suspected HEV was tested for immunoglobulinM(IgM) antibodies to HEV to confirm infection. We used logistic regression analysis to identify risk factors for HEV disease and for death. We estimated the increased risk of perinatal mortality associated with jaundice during pregnancy. Results. We identified 4751 suspected HEV cases during August 2008-January 2009, including 17 deaths. IgM antibodies to HEV were identified in 56 of 73 (77%) case-patients tested who were neighbors of the case-patients who died. HEV disease was significantly associated with drinking municipally supplied water. Death among persons with HEV disease was significantly associated with being female and taking paracetamol (acetaminophen). Among women who were pregnant, miscarriage and perinatal mortality was 2.7 times higher (95% confidence interval, 1.2-6.1) in pregnancies complicated by jaundice. Conclusions. This outbreak of HEV was likely caused by sewage contamination of the municipal water system. Longer-term efforts to improve access to safe water and license HEV vaccines are needed. However, securing resources and support for intervention will rely on convincing data about the endemic burden of HEV disease, particularly its role in maternal and perinatal mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)658-665
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bangladesh
  • Hepatitis E
  • Outbreak
  • Pregnancy
  • Safe water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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