1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

What Is Hepatitis E?

By

Updated July 16, 2009

Question: What Is Hepatitis E?
Answer: Hepatitis E is one of five viruses that have a tendency to infect the liver and cause acute viral hepatitis. As a disease, it is very similar to hepatitis A. Here are six important facts about hepatitis E.
  • It is usually "self-limited." Self-limited means that a disease usually requires no medical treatment and will eventually be healed by the body's immune system. Doctors might offer supportive treatment such as medicines to control nausea or IV fluids to help with dehydration, but nothing specific to hepatitis E is needed.

  • It only causes acute illness. This means that the disease won't be chronic (like hepatitis B or C). Unlike chronic hepatitis, there is no relation to problems like cancer and cirrhosis. With that said, hepatitis E can lead to one severe complication: fulminant hepatitis failure.

  • It is a gastrointestinal illness. These illnesses involve the stomach and intestines. Because of this, symptoms of hepatitis E infection could include vomiting and diarrhea. However, like any acute hepatitis, symptoms of hepatitis E are usually flu-like causing fever, abdominal pain, nausea, muscle and joints aches and loss of appetite. Jaundice is very common in hepatitis E infection, but it is possible to have the disease and not show any symptoms.

  • It is spread by the fecal-oral route. When a virus is spread by the fecal-oral route, it's spread by ingesting infected feces -- usually in contaminated water. You can lower your chances of hepatitis E infection (and also hepatitis A) by drinking clean water and washing your hands regularly. For more information on prevention, check out "Preventing Viral Hepatitis."

  • Hepatitis E isn't a big problem in the United States. It is endemic (known to always exist in a certain place) in Southern and Southeast Asia, Northern and Northeast Africa and Mexico.

  • It can be dangerous during pregnancy. Though research is limited, when a mother in her third trimester of pregnancy catches hepatitis E, the infection can be severe and passed from mother to baby.

Sources:

Krawczynski K, Aggarwal R. Hepatitis E. In: M Feldman, LS Friedman, LJ Brandt (eds), Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 8e. Philadelphia, Elsevier, 2006. 1713-1718.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 8, 2006. Viral Hepatitis E.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Hepatitis
  4. Hepatitis Types
  5. Hepatitis E - What Is Hepatitis E

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.