A review of hepatitis E virus.J Food Prot. 2001 Apr; 64(4):572-86.JF
Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a major cause of outbreaks and sporadic cases of viral hepatitis in tropical and subtropical countries but is infrequent in industrialized countries. The virus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route with fecally contaminated drinking water being the usual vehicle. Hepatitis resulting from HEV infection is a moderately severe jaundice that is self-limiting in most patients. Young adults, 15 to 30 years of age, are the main targets of infection, and the overall death rate is 0.5 to 3.0%. However, the death rate during pregnancy approaches 15 to 25%. Death of the mother and fetus, abortion, premature delivery, or death of a live-born baby soon after birth are common complications of hepatitis E infection during pregnancy. Hepatitis E virus is found in both wild and domestic animals; thus, HEV is a zoonotic virus. The viruses isolated from swine in the United States or Taiwan are closely related to human HEV found in those areas. The close genetic relationship of the swine and human virus suggests that swine may be a reservoir of HEV. In areas where swine are raised, swine manure could be a source of HEV contamination of irrigation water or coastal waters with concomitant contamination of produce or shellfish. Increasing globalization of food markets by industrialized countries has the potential of introducing HEV into new areas of the world. The purpose of this review is to cover certain aspects of hepatitis E including the causative agent, the disease, diagnosis, viral detection, viral transmission, epidemiology, populations targeted by HEV, and the role of animals as potential vectors of the virus.