You've Got What? Hepatitis E
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Hepatitis E is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis E virus.
Hepatitis E is a notifiable condition1
Hepatitis E infection is spread when traces of faeces (containing hepatitis E virus) contaminate hands, objects, water or food and the virus is then taken in by mouth. Outbreaks of hepatitis E may occur and are usually caused by contaminated drinking water in areas with poor sanitation.
Hepatitis E can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus and through transfusion of infected blood products.
Hepatitis E is an uncommon infection in Australia and most cases are acquired overseas.
Adults and teenagers are more likely to have symptoms. In young children, jaundice is rare and any symptoms are usually mild.
Symptoms may include:
Most people recover fully and have life-long immunity. Death from hepatitis E in non-pregnant people is rare, however, up to 20% of women infected in the third trimester of pregnancy die.
Image Courtesy Public Health Image Library (PHIL), Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-USA) CDC,Dr. Thomas F. Sellers / Emory University
The diagnosis is based on signs and symptoms and confirmed with a blood test and/or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test in a pathology laboratory.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
15 to 64 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis E infection. Hospitalisation is not usually required.
There is currently no vaccine available for protection against hepatitis E infection. The following are recommended:
In areas of the world where food and water is less safe than in Australia care is needed to minimise your chances of getting hepatitis E infection. In such areas, the following are recommended:
1 – In South Australia the law requires doctors and laboratories to report some infections or diseases to SA Health. These infections or diseases are commonly referred to as 'notifiable conditions'.