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BACKGROUND:Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) is the leading cause of acute viral hepatitis globally. Symptomatic infection is associated with case fatality rates of ~20% in pregnant women and it is estimated to account for ~10,000 annual pregnancy-related deaths in southern Asia alone. Recently, large and well-documented outbreaks with high mortality have occurred in displaced population camps in Sudan, Uganda and South Sudan. However, the epidemiology of HEV is poorly defined, and the value of different immunisation strategies in outbreak settings uncertain. We aimed to estimate the critical epidemiological parameters for HEV and to evaluate the potential impact of both reactive vaccination (initiated in response to an epidemic) and pre-emptive vaccination. METHODS:We analysed data from one of the world's largest recorded HEV epidemics, which occurred in internally-displaced persons camps in Uganda (2007-2009), using transmission dynamic models to estimate epidemiological parameters and assess the potential impact of reactive and pre-emptive vaccination strategies. RESULTS:Under baseline assumptions we estimated the basic reproduction number of HEV in three separate camps to range from 3.7 (95% Credible Interval [CrI] 2.8, 5.1) to 8.5 (5.3, 11.4). Mean latent and infectious periods were estimated to be 34 (95% CrI 28, 39) and 40 (95% CrI 23, 71) days respectively. Assuming 90% vaccine coverage, reactive two-dose vaccination of those aged 16-65 years excluding pregnant women (for whom vaccine is not licensed), if initiated after 50 reported cases, led to mean camp-specific reductions in mortality of 10 to 29%. Pre-emptive vaccination with two doses reduced mortality by 35 to 65%. Both strategies were more effective if coverage was extended to groups for whom the vaccine is not currently licensed. For example, two dose pre-emptive vaccination, if extended to include pregnant women, led to mean reductions in mortality of 66 to 82%. CONCLUSIONS:HEV has a high transmission potential in displaced population settings. Substantial reductions in mortality through vaccination are expected, even if used reactively. There is potential for greater impact if vaccine safety and effectiveness can be established in pregnant women.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS neglected tropical diseases

Publication Date





Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), Bangkok, Thailand.


Humans, Hepatitis E, Viral Hepatitis Vaccines, Vaccination, Epidemiologic Methods, Survival Analysis, Pregnancy, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Refugees, Uganda, Female, Male, Disease Transmission, Infectious, Young Adult, Epidemics