Hepatitis E is a contagious, acute inflammatory disease of the liver. It does not develop into a chronic disease.
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus, which is found in the stool of an infected person.
Transmission of the hepatitis E virus generally happens when someone drinks water that is contaminated with the fecal matter—even just microscopic traces—of an infected person. Major outbreaks typically happen in regions of the world where sanitation is poor.
Few cases of hepatitis E have resulted from person-to-person contact, and there is no evidence that the virus can be spread through sexual activity. Transmission through blood is rare.
Not all people infected with hepatitis E will show symptoms. However,three to eight weeks after getting infected, those who do have symptoms may have the following:
Healthcare providers review symptoms and can diagnose hepatitis E with a blood test, which will reveal the presence of antibodies to the hepatitis E virus. However, the test is not available in the United States.
There are no medicines for treating a hepatitis E infection after a person gets it. In milder cases, healthcare providers usually prescribe rest, plenty of fluids, and a nutritious diet. While the body fights hepatitis E, a person should avoid any medicines—over-the-counter or prescribed—that could damage the liver. Sufferers should also avoid alcohol during the recovery period, as alcohol may also damage the liver.
The best way to prevent a hepatitis E infection is to avoid contaminated water, especially when traveling in countries where hepatitis E is common.
Currently, there is no approved vaccine for hepatitis E, though a promising candidate developed in part by NIAID has been successful in clinical trials.
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Last Updated October 02, 2009