Hepatitis E is a virus that can infect the liver.
Unlike other forms of hepatitis, the hepatitis E virus doesn't lead to long-term illness or serious liver damage. Most people get well within a few months.
People usually get hepatitis E by drinking water or eating food that's been contaminated by feces (stool) from someone infected with hepatitis E. But people also can get hepatitis E from contact with an animal, such as eating undercooked meat from or touching an infected pig.
It's uncommon to get the disease directly from another person. There's no evidence that you can get hepatitis E by having sex with someone or by getting a blood transfusion.
It's very unlikely that you would get infected more than once with the hepatitis E virus.
After you've been exposed to the virus, it can take from 2 to 7 weeks before you see any signs of it. Symptoms usually last for about 2 months.
Common symptoms are:
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and where you've eaten or traveled. You may have blood tests if your doctor thinks you have the virus. These tests can tell if your liver is inflamed and whether you have antibodies to the hepatitis E virus. Having these antibodies in your blood proves that you have been exposed to the virus.
Hepatitis E goes away on its own in most cases. To help yourself get better faster:
If your symptoms are severe or if you're pregnant, talk to your doctor. You may need to be treated in a hospital.
Hepatitis E is more common in developing countries in Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central America. If you visit these countries, you can lower your chances of getting the disease if you:
There is currently no approved vaccine for hepatitis E.
People who have had any kind of viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E) since they were 11 years old are not allowed to donate blood.
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control (2009). Hepatitis E FAQs for Health Professionals. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HEV/HEVfaq.htm.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2009). Vaccines, Blood, and Biologics: Donating Blood Questions and Answers. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/BloodBloodProducts/QuestionsaboutBlood/DonatingBlood/default.htm.
World Health Organization (2005). Fact Sheet 280: Hepatitis E. Available online: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs280/en.
October 29, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
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