Hepatitis E - including symptoms, treatment and prevention
Hepatitis E is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis E virus.
Hepatitis E is a notifiable condition1
How hepatitis E is spread
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.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis E
Adults and teenagers are more likely to have symptoms. In young children, jaundice is rare and any symptoms are usually mild.
Symptoms may include:
loss of appetite
nausea (and sometimes vomiting)
fever and chills
dark urine and pale faeces
yellow skin and eyes (jaundice) (see image).
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
Diagnosis of hepatitis E
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)
Treatment for hepatitis E
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis E infection. Hospitalisation is not usually required.
Prevention of hepatitis E
There is currently no vaccine available for protection against hepatitis E infection. The following are recommended:
for people with hepatitis E, the exclusion period from childcare, preschool and work is not clear but it is reasonable to recommend the same exclusion period as for hepatitis A: 7 days after the onset of jaundice or illness
follow good personal hygiene practices, especially thorough hand washing
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