Outbreak of acute undifferentiated febrile illness in Kathmandu, Nepal: clinical and epidemiological investigation


Sunil Pokharel, Manan Karki, Bhim Acharya, Baburam Marasini, Amit Arjyal


Background: Outbreaks of acute undifferentiated febrile illness (AUFI) are common in Nepal, but the exact etiology or risk factors for them often go unrecognized. Diseases like influenza, enteric fever and rickettsial fevers account for majority of such outbreaks. Optimal diagnostic tests to inform treatment decisions are not available at the point-of-care. A proper epidemiological and clinical characterization of such outbreaks is important for appropriate treatment and control efforts.

Methods: An investigation was initiated as a response to increased presentation of patients at Patan Hospital from Chalnakhel locality in Dakchinkali municipality, Kathmandu with AUFI from June 10 to July 1, 2016. Focused group discussion with local inhabitants and the epidemiological curve of febrile patients at local primary health care centre confirmed the outbreak. The household-survey was conducted in the area with questionnaire administered on patients to characterize their illnesses and their medical records were reviewed. A different set of questionnaire was administered on the patients and controls to investigate the association with common risk factors. Water samples were collected and analyzed microbiologically.

Results: Eighty one patients from 137 households suffered from febrile illness within 6 weeks window before the investigation. All the 67 sampled patients with acute fever had a generalized illness without a discernible focus of infection. Only 38% of the patients had received a clinical diagnosis while the rest were treated empirically without a diagnosis. Three patients had blood culture confirmed enteric fever. Forty-two (63%) patients had been administered antibiotics, most commonly, ofloxacin, cefixime or azithromycin with a mean fever clearance time of 4 days. There was no definite association between several risk factors and fever. Fecal contamination was noted in tap water samples.

Conclusion: Based on the pattern of illness, this outbreak was most likely a mixture of self-limiting viral infections and enteric fever. This study shows that even in the absence of a confirmed diagnosis, a detailed characterization of the illness at presentation and the recovery course can suggest the diagnosis and help in formulating appropriate recommendation for treatment and control.

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