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Hepatitis E, also known as "Hep E" or "HEV", is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus.

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of cases reported in Europe and Hepatitis E is now the most common cause of short-term or acute hepatitis in the UK, although most people in this country make a full recovery, with a few or no recurring symptoms.  In cases where the patient has a suppressed immune system, the virus is not fully cleared and this can lead to a persistent or chronic infection and cirrhosis of the liver.

The Hepatitis E virus is mainly linked to the eating of undercooked pork or offal but also with shellfish, wild boar and venison.

The Hepatitis E virus is spread in a similar way to that of hepatitis A, through what is known as ‘faecal-oral’ transmission. This means that the virus is passed out in faeces and finds its way into the mouth, usually via contaminated food or water.  Unlike hepatitis B, C or D, there is no evidence of the hepatitis E virus being transmitted through sharing needles, bodily fluids or through sexual contact, apart from in instances of oral-anal contact.  There have also been a number of cases reported where hepatitis E has been transmitted through blood transfusions and organ transplants.

During the incubation period after the virus enters your body, there may be no symptoms for a period of between two to nine weeks. The symptoms of hepatitis E infection can include mild flu-like symptoms, extreme tiredness, dark or brown urine, fever, itching, abdominal pain, a loss of appetite, jaundice and sickness. The joints and muscles can also ache, tingle, be numb or weak.

In patients with a pre-existing liver condition or in those that are pregnant, hepatitis E can cause them to become very ill, to the extent that hospital admission may be necessary.  

Practising good personal hygiene measures around food and water is important, especially when travelling to parts of the world where there is a problem with Hepatitis E.
There is currently no vaccine against Hepatitis E, so it is important to take precautions when travelling to endemic areas.

More information about this can be found on the British Liver Trust website at  britishlivertrust.org.uk.