Hepatitis E Questions and Answers for the Public

What is hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). Most people with hepatitis E fully recover and have no long-term liver problems as a result of their infection.

How is hepatitis E spread?
In developing countries, people most often get hepatitis E from drinking water contaminated by feces from  people who are infected with the virus. In the United States and other developed countries, people have gotten sick with hepatitis E after eating raw or undercooked pork, venison, and wild boar meat.

How common is hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E is common in many parts of the developing world where sanitation is poor. It is not common in the United States, where people have access to clean drinking water.  Most cases in the United States involve people who have recently traveled to countries where hepatitis E is common.

Who is at risk for hepatitis E?
Travelers to areas of the world with poor sanitation are at greatest risk for getting hepatitis E.

Does hepatitis E cause symptoms?
Many people with hepatitis E, especially young children, do not have any symptoms. Others may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes)

How soon after exposure to hepatitis E will symptoms appear?
If symptoms occur, they usually appear anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks after exposure to the virus that causes hepatitis E.

How serious is hepatitis E?
Pregnant women are at greater risk for liver failure and death from hepatitis E. People who have had solid-organ transplants and those with compromised immune systems can experience more severe, long-term liver problems if infected.

How would I know if I have hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E can only be diagnosed with laboratory tests ordered by your health-care provider. If you are having symptoms of hepatitis E, see your health-care provider.

How is hepatitis E treated?
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis E. Most people get better by treating their symptoms.

Can hepatitis E be prevented?
No vaccine is available to protect against hepatitis E. However, you can lower your risk for HEV infection by drinking only purified water when visiting countries where hepatitis E is common and by avoiding raw or undercooked pork, venison, and wild boar meat.