Last updated: 22 December 2020
What is it?
- Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a virus that can be found in the gut of some animals and in people
- HEV can get into water and food from the faeces (poo) or body fluids of infected people or animals, for example from poor handwashing
- Foods at higher risk of contamination include pork, pig liver and raw or undercooked shellfish
What's the risk?
- HEV can cause a hepatitis E infection of the gut and liver
- Anyone can get hepatitis E but vulnerable people, including pregnant women, the elderly, people with weak immune systems and people with liver disease are more likely to get seriously ill
- Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their unborn baby
- People traveling to countries where sanitation is poor may pick up HEV
Reduce your risk
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them before preparing and eating food, especially after going to the toilet or changing nappies
- Cook food thoroughly, especially pork products (e.g. pâté and sausages)
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish
- Avoid sharing food, cutlery and drinks with other people
- When traveling to places with poor sanitation, drink bottled water and avoid food that might have been prepared using contaminated water.
Symptoms of hepatitis E
- Symptoms usually start within 40 days of eating contaminated food, but can take up to 64 days
- Common symptoms range from fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and nausea to abdominal pain and dark-coloured urine and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Generally, symptoms last for around 2–6 weeks
- Hepatitis E generally does not usually cause long-term illness.