What is hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E, also known as Enteric non-A, non-B is a virus that attacks the liver and causes liver inflammation. Hepatitis E virus is transmitted by contaminated stool (poop). People infected with hepatitis E excrete the virus in their stools, and the virus is spread by coming in contact with contaminated food and water.
When people come in contact with infected stool and do not wash their hands properly with soap and water, they can become infected with hepatitis E. The hepatitis E virus is easily spread in areas that have poor sanitation or poor personal hygiene.
In the United States, hepatitis E virus is relatively uncommon because the water and sewage treatment facilities in this country are effective in killing any hepatitis E virus that may enter the water supply. However, many countries in the world do not have effective facilities to kill the virus and they have many people with hepatitis E virus infection.
In industrialized countries, undercooked contaminated meat, particularly pork, has been associated with hepatitis E infection.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of hepatitis E virus infection are similar to the symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection and can include:
- Low-grade fever
- Lack of appetite
- Gastrointestinal (GI) issues such as nausea and abdominal pain
- Dark-colored urine
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Feeling of sickness
Testing and diagnosis
Hepatitis E is diagnosed with a blood test. If your child has hepatitis E, specific antibodies will be present in his blood.
Currently, there is no licensed therapy for the treatment of hepatitis E virus. Most people who experience hepatitis E have a short-term infection of four to six weeks with no long-term complications. People who are infected with hepatitis E do not develop chronic hepatitis E.
In rare cases, a fulminant form of hepatitis develops (acute liver failure), requiring hospitalization and intense monitoring. Women who are pregnant should be extra careful not to contract the virus.
It is important to always wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing and eating food. Good personal hygiene and proper sanitation help prevent the spread of hepatitis E.
There is no vaccine to prevent transmission of the hepatitis E virus.
Reviewed by Jessica W. Wen, MD