Blood Transfusion - 3 2017 (May - June)

Hepatitis E virus infections in travellers: assessing the threat to the Australian blood supply
Authors:  Ashish C. Shrestha, Robert L.P. Flower, Clive R. Seed, Anthony J. Keller, Veronica Hoad, Robert Harley, Robyn Leader, Ben Polkinghorne, Catriona Furlong, Helen M. Faddy
Pages:  191-198
To cite this article:  Blood Transfus 2017; 15: 191-8
Doi:  10.2450/2016.0064-16
Published online:  22/07/2016

 In many developed countries hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections have occurred predominantly in travellers to countries endemic for HEV. HEV is a potential threat to blood safety as the virus is transfusion-transmissible. To minimise this risk in Australia, individuals diagnosed with HEV are deferred. Malarial deferrals, when donors are restricted from donating fresh blood components following travel to an area in which malaria is endemic, probably also decrease the HEV risk, by deferring donors who travel to many countries also endemic for HEV. The aim of this study is to describe overseas-acquired HEV cases in Australia, in order to determine whether infection in travellers poses a risk to Australian blood safety. 
Materials and methods. Details of all notified HEV cases in Australia from 2002 to 2014 were accessed, and importation rates estimated. Countries in which HEV was acquired were compared to those for which donations are restricted following travel because of a malaria risk. 
Results. Three hundred and thirty-two cases of HEV were acquired overseas. Travel to India accounted for most of these infections, although the importation rate was highest for Nepal and Bangladesh. Countries for which donations are restricted following travel due to malaria risk accounted for 94% of overseas-acquired HEV cases. 
Discussion. The vast majority of overseas-acquired HEV infections were in travellers returning from South Asian countries, which are subject to donation-related travel restrictions for malaria. This minimises the risk HEV poses to the Australian blood supply.

Keywords: risk, safety, transfusion, travel, hepatitis. 
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