Hepatitis E

[hep·a·ti·tis ]

HEV outbreak investigation

​Here’s a type of hepatitis you probably haven’t heard of before. Like all types of hepatitis, hepatitis E is a liver infection. Hepatitis E is a short-term disease that is often mild.  While rare in the United States, it is common in many low-income countries, where it can lead to liver failure. It is spread by ingesting fecal matter contaminated with hepatitis E virus, even in tiny amounts, and is often associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for hepatitis E. The infection usually improves with rest, proper hydration, and nutrition.


Key Facts

  • Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus.
  • Travelers and residents in countries with poor sanitation and limited access to safe water are at risk for hepatitis E.
  • Hepatitis E can seriously affect pregnant women and people with vulnerable immune systems.
  • Not everyone infected with hepatitis E has symptoms, but symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, and jaundice.
  • Hepatitis E can only be diagnosed by your health care provider with the assistance of laboratory tests.


Hepatitis E Micrograph

Hepatitis E Micrograph

An electron micrograph photo of hepatitis E viruses.

Chlorine treatments

Drink Treated Water

Water purification packets are an effective way to purify water that might be contaminated with hepatitis E. Adding a packet or bottlecap of chlorine per 20 liters of water and waiting 30 minutes before drinking is proven to reduce most bacteria and viruses, including hepatitis E.

Refugee camp in South Sudan

Hepatitis E Around the World

While rare in the United States, hepatitis E is common in low-income countries with limited access to safe water.

Mother washing child's hand with chlorine-treated water

Preventing Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E can be prevented by following water, sanitation, and hygiene principles: wash your hands often with soap, use toilets, drink treated water, and avoid eating undercooked food.

Hepatitis E & Maternal Deaths

Prevention Tips

  • Hepatitis E is usually spread by drinking water contaminated by the feces (or stool) of an infected person. Hepatitis E in high-income countries may occur as a result of the consumption of raw or undercooked food.
  • Travelers and residents in countries with poor sanitation and limited access to safe water are at risk for hepatitis E. People with vulnerable immune systems (including pregnant women) and solid organ transplant recipients are also at an increased risk of complications from hepatitis E.
  • Because there is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for prevention of hepatitis E, travelers to areas with poor sanitation should avoid drinking untreated water and eating raw or undercooked food.

More at CDC.gov

Page last reviewed: May 11, 2016