Viral Hepatitis E

What is hepatitis E?

A virus that leads to inflammation of the liver, hepatitis E comes into being as a result of the hepatitis E virus and is relatively irregular in the UK. Hepatitis E is most prevalent in Africa, South Asia and Central America. There are four varied types of hepatitis E; known as genotypes they include type 1, type 2, type 3 and type 4. Type 1 is most commonly diagnosed in the United Kingdom and is usually seen in persons who have been abroad.

Hepatitis E cannot augment into a chronic infection and signs are usually mild and last for a short period of time, with the incubation period being between four and six weeks. Hepatitis E can be very serious in pregnant women as it can cause acute fulminant hepatitis, which can contribute to liver failure.

What causes hepatitis E?

Hepatitis E is brought about by a virus known as the hepatitis E virus, which is spread in a similar vein to hepatitis A. Hepatitis E is spread through contact with the faeces of an infected person and can be passed on through poor hygiene, eating foods that were touched by people with hepatitis E, poor sanitation and contaminated water. Dissimilar to other categories of hepatitis, hepatitis E cannot be spread via sexual contact or sharing needles with others.

Hepatitis E is often found to be more common in poorer countries where sanitation is poor and people live in crowded conditions. Often outbreaks occur after natural disasters when water supplies are spoiled and people come into contact with sewage.

Symptoms of hepatitis E

It may take as long as two weeks for symptoms to appear once an individual is exposed to the hepatitis E virus. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Sickness.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Jaundice.
  • Dark urine.
  • Diarrhoea.

How is hepatitis E diagnosed?

Hepatitis E is able to be diagnosed via a blood test, which will confirm the existence of the virus and distinguish between the different forms of hepatitis. The signs of hepatitis E are general and may be caused by many health conditions. As a result of this doctors may rule out hepatitis E unless an individual has recently returned from a country where hepatitis E is common. If you are pregnant and your doctor thinks that you have hepatitis E you will be referred to a specialist urgently.

Treating hepatitis E

Usually no treatment is needed for hepatitis E and it is classed as a ‘self-limiting’ condition. Symptoms tend to be mild and clear up after a short period of time. The majority of people with hepatitis E will make a complete recuperation without any treatment.

Preventing hepatitis E

There isn’t a vaccination for hepatitis E but you can reduce your risk of contracting the infection by taking care when you travel to areas where the condition is prevalent. This involves:

  • Drinking bottled water.
  • Avoiding food which has been washed in tap water.
  • Avoiding crowded areas where sanitation is poor.
  • Washing your hands on a standard basis.
  • Ensuring all food is cooked thoroughly.
  • Avoid having ice in your drinks.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish.
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