The Alphabet Soup of Virus Hepatitis: Hepatitis E

What is Hepatitis E?

Hepatitis E is a RNA virus. It is a major cause of occasional epidemics of hepatitis in India, Myanmar, Central Asia, Mexico and Russia. There are three subtypes that give variations in disease patterns.

How is Hepatitis E acquired?

Hepatitis E is usually transmitted by contaminated drinking water or food. Children and young adults are especially susceptible. Occasionally it is transmitted from person to person by the oro-faecal route.

What are the symptoms?

The incubation period is about 40 days. It can be sub-clinical, with few symptoms and no jaundice and may not even be diagnosed. However in pregnant women it can be a very severe disease especially in the third trimester and is associated with a high death rate (about 20%) in these patients. Lifelong immunity develops after recovery.

Can it be treated?

There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis D. The treatment is to treat the underlying Hepatitis B (see other article) since Hepatitis D is dependent for its existence on Hepatitis B.

What is the outcome?

In coinfection the course of infection is usually self-limiting and chronic hepatitis occurs in less than 10% of patients. In fact, Hepatitis D may suppress Hepatitis B. However in superinfection, chronic hepatitis is more likely and so is fulminant hepatitis.

Can I vaccinate against it?

There is no vaccine against Hepatitis D virus. However immunity against Hepatitis B also protects against Hepatitis D.