Hepatitis E

What is Hepatitis E (HEV)?

Hepatitis E is caused by infection with the hepatitis E virus. Hepatitis E is a waterborne disease, and contaminated water or food supplies have been cause of major outbreaks (large number of infected people). Hepatitis E infections have been found in much of Central and South-East Asia, North and West Africa, and in Mexico. These are areas where fecal contamination of drinking water is common.

How is Hepatitis E spread?

  • eating food or drinking water contaminated with the stool (bowel movement) of an infected person
  • possibility of spread by several non-human primates, pigs, cows, sheep, goats and rodents because they can be infected with the virus

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis E?

  • jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
  • weight loss
  • liver enlargement
  • abdominal pain and tenderness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever

After becoming infected, symptoms may show between 3 to 8 weeks. Symptoms are most common in young adults aged 15-40 years and uncommon in children.

Are there complications from Hepatitis E?

Hepatitis E is a mild to moderate disease in severity except in pregnant women. Their rate of dying from infection increases with each trimester and may reach 20%. Children infected with both hepatitis E and hepatitis may have a more severe form of the disease, including acute liver failure.

How do I know if I have Hepatitis E?

See your doctor who may ask for a urine sample to examine liver function and/or a stool sample to examine for the presence of the virus.

How is Hepatitis E treated?

Hepatitis E is a viral disease therefore antibiotics will not be helpful. Infected people will most often recover on their own over several weeks to months. Hospitalization is generally not required. Prevention is the most effective approach against the disease.

Is there a vaccine for Hepatitis E?


How can Hepatitis E be prevented?

If you are traveling to an area where hepatitis E is common, follow these precautions:

  • wash hands frequently with soap and water
  • drink tea and coffee made with boiled water and carbonated, bottled beverages
  • avoid ice
  • eat only foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot
  • only eat fruit that you have peeled yourself
  • avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish
  • make sure all vegetables are cooked
  • avoid eating salads
  • avoid foods and beverages from street vendors