What is hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E is a virus that causes liver disease. Hepatitis E virus is found in places around the world where sanitation is poor and there is limited access to safe drinking water.
You can get infected with hepatitis E virus if you
- Eat food or drink beverages contaminated with hepatitis E
- Eat shellfish or uncooked or undercooked products made from deer, boar, and pig
Some people who get hepatitis E never feel sick. Others have symptoms that may include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain, and jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes). Symptoms usually last less than two months but can last for up to six months.
Most people infected with hepatitis E virus recover with no lasting liver damage. However, people with existing liver disease can get seriously ill. Infected pregnant women can get seriously ill and have pregnancy complications.
Who is at risk?
Hepatitis E is found worldwide. Hepatitis E is more widespread in low and middle income countries, specifically in Asia and Africa, that do not have adequate food and water safety standards. Travelers to these countries are more likely to get infected.
In addition, travelers working in health care settings or refugee camps may be more at risk of infection. Many large hepatitis E outbreaks have occurred among refugees and internally displaced people living in camps.
What can travelers do to prevent hepatitis E?
There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis E. Travelers can help prevent hepatitis E by taking the following steps:
Choose food and drinks carefully
- Only drink beverages from factory-sealed containers
- Avoid ice because it may have been made from unclean water
- Only drink pasteurized milk
- Only eat foods that are cooked and served hot
- Avoid food that has been sitting on a buffet
- Only eat raw fruits and vegetables if you have washed them in clean water or peeled them
If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.
If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.