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Hepatitis E

Introduction

Hepatitis E is an infection spread mainly through food and water that affects the liver.

Recommendations for Travellers

Prevention is focused on food and water hygiene and practising good hand and personal hygiene, particularly by pregnant women and those who are immunosuppressed. Raw or undercooked pork and shellfish should be avoided.

No vaccine is available for use in the UK.

Overview of the Disease

Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). It occurs worldwide, but there are differences it how it is spread.

There are four different strains of HEV. Two are spread through contaminated water and food – these are mainly an issue in Asia, Africa, Central America and Mexico. The other two strains are mainly spread through consuming raw or undercooked pork or shellfish. They can also be transmitted through blood transfusions. These strains are mainly an issue in Europe, North America, China and Japan.

The Illness

Most infections produce no symptoms. When symptoms occur they may include mild fever, nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice. Most infections get better without treatment.

Pregnant women and those with chronic liver problems can become very ill with hepatitis E and develop liver failure. The infection may be fatal.

People who are immunosuppressed, particularly after organ transplants, can develop chronic infection, which may lead to severe liver disease.

Treatment

Most infections do not need treatment because they self-resolve. Severe infection and chronic infection can be treated with antiviral tablets.

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