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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 68-69

Viral hepatitis E during offshore deployment -A case report

1 INS Shishumar, COMCOS (W), Mumbai, India
2 Department of Anesthesiology, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication17-Aug-2017

Correspondence Address:
Surg Lt M Indrakanth Reddy
INS Shishumar, C/O Fleet Mail Office, COMCOS (W), Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmms.jmms_48_17

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A 20-year-old young serving sailor presented with a two day history of loss of appetite, mild grade fever and yellow discoloration of both eyes and urine, while sailing, off the home port. He had icterus and tender Grade I hepatomegaly and was provisionally diagnosed as a case of clinical jaundice. As there was no facility for investigation on board, the severity of jaundice, as well as the type of infection were not known. The patient was isolated in a separate compartment and universal precautions were taken for the nursing members. Proper handwashing, chlorination of the water tanks, boiling of drinking water for the ships' company and disinfection procedures for the sick bay were followed. The crew was educated on reporting to the sick bay whenever any signs or symptoms of jaundice appear in them. After five days, the sailor was referred to a tertiary care hospital when the ship reached the nearest port. He was found to be having high bilirubin level and his liver enzymes and PT/INR were deranged. He was positive for Hepatitis E. Prompt control measures undertaken by the Medical Officer of the ship ensured that there were no other cases of jaundice reporting from the ship.

Keywords: Deployment, Hepatitis E, Navy, sailing, submarine, warship

How to cite this article:
Reddy M I, Singh U, Upadhayaya A. Viral hepatitis E during offshore deployment -A case report . J Mar Med Soc 2017;19:68-9

How to cite this URL:
Reddy M I, Singh U, Upadhayaya A. Viral hepatitis E during offshore deployment -A case report . J Mar Med Soc [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Aug 13];19:68-9. Available from: https://www.marinemedicalsociety.in/text.asp?2017/19/1/68/213107

  Introduction Top

Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is an enterically transmitted virus which is usually self-limiting, but some cases may complicate to fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure).[1] HEV was detected in 1983, when a researcher voluntarily ingested a pooled extract of feces from soviet soldiers suffering with acute hepatitis.[2] Since then HEV has caused large epidemics in developing countries including in India. An estimated 79,091 persons in the city of Kanpur were affected by hepatitis E during the period from 1990 to 1991[3] and was blamed to the mixing of drinking water by water from the Ganges. The HEV is shed in the stools of the infected person and enters the human body through enteric route. Definitive diagnosis of hepatitis E infection rests on detection of IgM and IgG anti-HEV antibodies and detection of HEV RNA. Other advanced diagnostic modalities include reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction to detect viral RNA in the blood.[4] No specific treatment is presently used for altering the course of acute hepatitis E. However, hospitalization is mandatory for people with fulminant hepatitis. In complicated cases of hepatitis E, interferon or antiviral drugs such as ribavirin have also been used successfully.[5]

  Case Report Top

A 20-year-old young serving sailor, serving onboard a warship deployed off the home port for a considerable period, presented with a 2 days history of loss of appetite, mild grade fever, and yellowish discoloration of both eyes along with discoloration of urine. He embarked the ship along with the ships' crew approximately 15 days prior and had no significant history of consumption of any food or fluids other than from known sources. On general physical examination, he was febrile, had icterus and tachycardia. Systemic examination revealed a tender Grade I hepatomegaly (2 cm below right costal margin). Based on these clinical findings, he was diagnosed as a case of jaundice for investigation. The patient was isolated in a compartment near to the sick bay and was managed conservatively. Medical and other staff nursing with the patient observed necessary universal precautions. Proper handwashing of all personnel onboard the ship was enforced, and disinfection procedures with 5% cresol ensured. Five days later, when the warship reached a foreign port, the patient was admitted to a tertiary care center. He had elevated serum bilirubin levels and liver enzyme levels besides a deranged prothrombin time/international normalized ratio. The patient was further diagnosed as a case of HEV-related acute hepatitis. He was subsequently repatriated to India and was admitted to a tertiary care hospital of the Navy. The further period of hospitalization of the patient was uneventful, and the individual was discharged postfull recovery.

  Discussion Top

Hepatitis E is essentially transmitted by fecal–oral route through drinking of contaminated water.[6] Risks of contamination can arise from source water at the port or during loading, storage, or distribution onboard the ship which differ considerably from that of the water supply ashore. The infection may also arise from contaminated drinking water while eating out at unhygienic places, which cannot be ruled out in this case as the sailor contracted the infection 15 days after sailing out from the home port, thus being well within the incubation period of 2–10 weeks.[7]

Water- and food-borne diseases have been quite common in the Navy.[8] The pandemics of cholera were blamed to have spread through sea to several continents. In a ship or a submarine, environment is favorable for rapid and efficient transmission of HEV, particularly when levels of protection are suboptimal and immunity is low during prolonged sailing.[9] A single case of water- and food-borne hepatitis E case can be transmitted relatively easily in view of the common food preparation areas and common water supply if control measures are not instituted. Our patient was managed as a case of clinical jaundice in the absence of confirmatory tests onboard. With so many different modes of transmission of viral hepatitis, control measures are difficult to be instituted in a ship or a submarine, especially when a confirmatory test is not available. Isolation is difficult in a space-constrained environment, and management and transfer of the patients while on deployment would be a hideous task.

Hepatitis A, also transmitted by water and food, was found in American sailors serving onboard ships during the Gulf War,[10] and the sailors were transferred to the hospital ship Mercy. The admission rates varied from 1.68% to 1.87%. The advantage of such a hospital ship during war for carrying the wounded and the sick is also not always available.

  Conclusion Top

This report highlights the importance of undertaking prompt preventive and control measures in jaundice cases as the mode of transmission is unknown till a final diagnosis of the nature of Hepatitis Virus is detected. The factors contributing to such outbreaks emphasize the need for sanitary handling of water by effective chlorination along the supply chain from source to consumption. A comprehensive approach to water safety onboard ships is essential which should include routine inspection of chlorination and regular maintenance of water pipes to prevent mixing of drinking water pipes with sewage pipes which run parallelly. Installation of water filters with ultraviolet technology and boiling of drinking water are also known effective measures against HEV.

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There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Kamar N, Bendall R, Legrand-Abravanel F, Xia NS, Ijaz S, Izopet J, et al. Hepatitis E. Lancet 2012;379:2477-88.  Back to cited text no. 1
Nassim K, Harry DR, Florence A, Jacques I. Hepatitis virus infection. Clinical Microbiology Review 2014;27:116-38.  Back to cited text no. 2
Naik SR, Aggarwal R, Salunke PN, Mehrotra NN. A large waterborne viral hepatitis E epidemic in Kanpur, India. Bull World Health Organ 1992;70:597-604.  Back to cited text no. 3
Aggarwal R. Diagnosis of hepatitis E. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2013;10:24-33.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kamar N, Izopet J, Tripon S, Bismuth M, Hillaire S, Dumortier J, et al. Ribavirin for chronic hepatitis E virus infection in transplant recipients. N Engl J Med 2014;370:1111-20.  Back to cited text no. 5
Mirazo S, Ramos N, Mainardi V, Gerona S, Arbiza J. Transmission, diagnosis, and management of hepatitis E: An update. Hepat Med 2014;6:45-59.  Back to cited text no. 6
WHO Fact Sheet; 2017. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs280/en/. [Last accessed on 2017 Jul 24].  Back to cited text no. 7
Burgess C, Peace A, Everett R, Allegri B, Garman P. Computational modeling of interventions and protective thresholds to prevent disease transmission in deploying populations. Comput Math Methods Med 2014;2014:785752.  Back to cited text no. 8
Zheng W, Zhang Z, Liu C, Qiao Y, Zhou D, Qu J, et al. Metagenomic sequencing reveals altered metabolic pathways in the oral microbiota of sailors during a long sea voyage. Sci Rep 2015;5:9131.  Back to cited text no. 9
Gulf War and Health: Infectious Diseases Diagnosed in U.S. Troops Who Served in the Persian Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom. Available from: https://www.nap.edu/read/11765/chapter/6. [Last accessed on 2017 Jul 24].  Back to cited text no. 10


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