Hepatitis E is a liver infection caused by the virus HEV. Hepatitis E is common in regions with limited resources and limited access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation, hygiene, and health services. Every year there are 20 million HEV infections worldwide. China has produced and licensed the first vaccine to prevent hepatitis E virus infection, although it is not yet available globally.
The virus is transmitted through the fecal-oral route, or consuming food or water contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. Contaminated water is the principal source of infection. This route accounts for a very large proportion of clinical cases with this disease Hepatitis E is generally transmitted through the fecal-oral route, or consuming food or water contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. Hepatitis E can also be transmitted from mother to fetus, blood transfusion, and consumption of meat or products from infected animals. In endemic areas, consumption of raw or uncooked shellfish may also be the source.
Typical symptoms include an initial fever, reduced appetite, nausea and vomiting, jaundice, dark urine and pale stool, and a slightly enlarged and tender liver. Some people experience abdominal pain, itching without skin lesions, skin rash, or joint pain. In areas with high endemicity, symptoms are most often found in those 15-40 years old, and infection may go undiagnosed in asymptomatic children.
There is no specific treatment, but hospitalization is only required for those with fulminant hepatitis and is a consideration for pregnant women. Ribavarin, and antiviral drug, may be used for immunosuppressed people with chronic Hepatitis E.
Maintaining a high level of quality for drinking water and properly disposing of faeces reduces risk of transmission. Practicing healthy hygiene by washing hands with safe water, not ingesting water of unknown quality, and abiding by WHO safe food practices.
Recent Outbreaks in Africa