Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
What is hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E is a condition that causes liver inflammation when you are infected by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). The virus can affect you when you intentionally or unintentionally consume even a tiny amount of contaminated water. Liver diseases are growing rapidly in India and consumption of unhygienic food and water is one of the most prominent causes of the infection.
Hepatitis E is a self-limited virus that can disappear on its own within a timeframe of two to six weeks. There are four different genotypes of the virus- genotypes 1, 2, 3, and 4. Genotypes 1 and 2 are found in humans infected by the virus, whereas 3 and 4 are found in animals infected by the virus. In rare cases, the infection aggravates into fulminant hepatitis – a serious liver condition that can cause acute liver failure and can turn fatal.
Fulminant hepatitis is more common in pregnant women. A pregnant woman should take good care of her hygiene because ingesting the Hep E virus can cause critical health issues for the baby and the mother. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Hep E virus can lead to the death of 20% to 25% of pregnant women if they get infected by the virus in their third trimester.
In areas where Hep E infection is a common problem, the disease can occur as an outbreak. In such cases, drinking water supplies are contaminated by the feces of infected individuals and can affect a large population.
Further in this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, and management of the Hep E virus. If you or anyone you know is infected by the virus, this article will help you understand and learn more about the process of coping with the condition.
Causes of hepatitis E
You are at a high risk of contracting the hepatitis E infection if you are:
- Living in an area where the drinking water supply is contaminated by the feces of the person infected by the hepatitis E virus and you do not use a water filter
- Eating raw or undercooked non-vegetarian food like pork and chicken. These animals carry genotypes 3 and 4 of the hepatitis E virus
- Drinking water from a public water supply like handpumps or public taps installed in open and crowded areas
- Eating food from an unhygienic place
- Traveling to any place where there’s a Hep E
Symptoms of hepatitis E
The symptoms of hepatitis E may vary from person to person. Some may not experience any symptoms at all, some symptoms may get neglected because they are not severe and in several cases, the symptoms can appear after a few weeks of the infection. In case you are exposed to the above-mentioned causes, you should look for the following symptoms and get an early diagnosis:
- Recurring episodes of mild fever
- Unwillingness to eat due to less hunger
- Stomach ache and joint inflammation
- Joint pain
- Dark urine and clay-colored stool
- Skin rashes and itching
- Nausea and vomiting
- Change in the size and tender liver
Diagnosis of hepatitis E
Although there is no particular test available for Hep E, you can still take the below-mentioned to for an early diagnosis that can help in identifying the symptoms to prevent and manage the disease.
- Anti-HEV immunoglobulin M (IgM): An anti-HEV immunoglobulin M (IgM) is a blood test that helps in determining the presence of HEV in your blood. A positive test report indicates that the Hep E virus is present in your body and a negative test report will indicate that the virus is not present in your body.
Prevention and management of hepatitis E
Since the hepatitis E virus is self-limited, it goes away on its own in four to six weeks. But if you live at a place where water contamination is common, the following preventive measures can help in managing the disease:
- Install a water filter at your home for clean drinking water
- Take rest if you experience any symptoms
- Eat foods that are healthy and beneficial for your liver
- Drink at least eight glasses of water every day
- Follow hygienic practices
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid stool disposal at public places
- Bring your water bottle if traveling to a crowded unhygienic area where water contamination is possible, and avoid refilling in such locations.
- Give your children a water bottle when they go out to play and explain to them not to drink water from handpumps, or tap in any unhygienic area
Hepatitis E is a liver disease that you can easily manage and cure by avoiding causes and getting an early diagnosis if you experience the symptoms. If your queries regarding the Hep E virus are still unresolved, feel free to comment or reach out to us. Our health advisors will be more than happy to help you.
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