Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, which is sometimes due to an infection with hepatitis viruses. Other causes include toxic agents and autoimmune diseases. However, only hepatitis virus infections cause epidemic cases of hepatitis across the globe.
In many countries, hepatitis A is still a source of significant disease burden. It causes acute hepatitis that is sometimes mild but can be very severe and sometimes life-threatening. Similarly, hepatitis E is becoming a rising medical problem in some countries.
What is it about? In this article, we’re reviewing the basics of hepatitis E, how to detect this condition, and what to do about it.
What is hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E is a type of infectious hepatitis with a self-limited disease. It is caused by the hepatitis E virus, which is spread through contact with water contaminated with fecal particles. In endemic areas, hepatitis E is usually transmitted through consuming undercooked meat and using contaminated water.
Hepatitis E virus has a genome with three frames, and it is the only member of the genus hepevirus (not herpesvirus). It does not have an envelope and has an icosahedral structure with a single RNA strand. It can infect humans (genotypes 1 and 2) and other animals such as deer and pigs (genotypes 3 and 4).
There are many similarities between hepatitis A and hepatitis E, but the latter is also associated with chronic infection in immunocompromised individuals and hemodialysis patients.
The disease has an initial prodromal phase with mild symptoms followed by an icteric phase with a self-limited illness. Luckily, the fatality rate is very low, around 4%, but there’s a higher risk in immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women.