Nepal was struck by a devastating earthquake in April that killed 8,800 people and injured more than 23,000. After all the problems Nepal citizens faced due to the tremor, they still cannot live in peace as now the nation is facing a very high risk of a hepatitis E outbreak.
The document signed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Alain Labrique and six others, stated that the conditions Nepal have left conditions ripe for hepatitis E virus (HEV), which spreads from feces to mouth via contaminated water. The researchers also claimed that approximately 500 pregnant women can die from the virus in the coming months and many more could be sickened.
Though there is a safe and effective vaccine available for hepatitis E, it is currently only licensed for use in China. Moreover, the World Health Organization has not recommended routine use of the vaccine because there is a need for additional safety and efficacy data, particularly among pregnant women. The researchers recommend that Nepalese health authorities should actively work to identify cases of the disease where pregnant women are being treated and that the Nepalese Ministry of Health should initiate a request for the vaccine to build a stockpile.
Associate Professor Labrique said, "Hepatitis E is a neglected virus that has not been well understood but they were now seeing that it was likely a major cause of maternal deaths in countries where it is common."
The research is published in the Lancet.