Hepatitis E

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Hepatitis E is a viral hepatitis that is most commonly found in geographical areas lacking clean water and sanitation. Hepatitis E is not common or typical in countries or areas with clean drinking water and adequate environmental sanitation. Typically, people diagnosed with hepatitis E have become infected during travels to or stays in geographical areas lacking clean water or sanitation.

How is it transmitted?

Hepatitis E is transmitted through oral contact with feces. This is primarily through contaminated water sources and a lack of sanitation. Transmission from person to person appears to be uncommon.

What are the symptoms?

 Symptoms of hepatitis E resemble those of hepatitis A:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Malaise (feeling of ill-health)
  • Anorexia (lack of appetite)
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Dark colored urine
  • Jaundice

Hepatitis E is not known to cause chronic infection.

How is hepatitis E diagnosed?

There are no specific blood tests commercially available for detecting hepatitis E virus antigen or antibodies. There are diagnostic tests available in research laboratories. Talk to your healthcare provider about testing.

How is hepatitis E treated?

Most people with hepatitis E experience a self-limited illness (one that runs a limited course) and go on to recover completely. There is no accepted therapy, nor restrictions on diet or activity.

In most cases, hospitalization should be considered for people who are severely ill for provision of supportive care.

What does it mean for my health?

 Pregnant women who become infected with hepatitis E are at greater risk of death. The fatality rate may reach 15 to 20% among women during pregnancy.


Reduce your risk

Outbreaks of hepatitis E have occurred in Asia, Africa and Mexico, as well as in other geographical areas lacking a clean water source and sanitation. If you think you may be infected with hepatitis E, talk to your healthcare provider about testing.

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis E, therefore the only way to protect yourself is to avoid contaminated food or water.

When traveling to geographical areas where the water supply is doubtful:

  • Avoid drinking the water unless it is sealed bottled water.
  • Avoid using local ice.
  • Avoid uncooked shellfish.
  • Avoid uncooked fruits or vegetables that are not peeled or prepared by the traveler

Should I talk to my partner?

Hepatitis E is primarily transmitted by contaminated drinking water and is not thought to be sexually transmitted.

More information:

Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Viral Hepatitis Division and National Immunziation Program
Hepatitis Foundation International
American Liver Foundation
Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKID)