Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E (HEV) causes acute hepatitis, but does not lead to chronic hepatitis. It is similar to hepatitis A in that it occurs mainly by contamination of food and water. It occurs mostly in developing countries and is widespread in India, Asia, Africa and Central America. Epidemics normally happen after water supplies are contaminated with sewage after monsoons or flooding. Infected individuals in the United States usually have returned from travel to an area where the virus is more common. Young and middle-aged adults are most frequently symptomatic with younger individuals thought to have sub-acute or asymtpomatic disease. The virus has a 15- to 60-day incubation period and infected persons may be contagious for up to two weeks after symptoms appear. The acute phase is mild but there is a 1 percent to 2 percent chance of developing sudden and severe liver disease, in which case a liver transplant might be needed.

How is HEV spread?

Hepatitis E is spread just like HAV is, through contamination of food and water. It is not transmitted through needles, blood, other body fluids or through sexual contact.

What are the symptoms of HEV?

The symptoms are the same as for HBV, with jaundice and flu-like aches and pains. Testing for HEV is reserved for travelers returning from developing countries in whom hepatitis is present but other hepatitis viruses cannot be detected.

There is no treatment for HEV hepatitis.

External Sources

Hepatitis Branch Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases
National Center for Infectious Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333
Hepatitis Foundation International, 30 Sunrise Terrace Cedar Grove, NJ 07009-1423; 1-800-891-0707