Hepatitis E is an illness of the liver caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV), a virus which can infect animals and humans. HEV infection usually produces a mild disease. However, disease symptoms can vary from no clear symptoms to liver failure.
Among pregnant women there's a risk of the virus causing severe illness which can, in rare cases, be fatal. This is more likely to occur with the strains found in Asia and Africa and doesn't appear to be a feature of the strains commonly found in the UK.
Normally the virus infection will clear by itself. However, it's been shown that the virus can result in a persistent infection which may lead to chronic inflammation of the liver in people whose immune system is suppressed, for example due to:
View Scottish Health Protection Network's (SHPN) hepatitis E information leaflet.
- Information on the safe handling of food is available on the Food Standards Scotland website.
- When travelling to countries with poor sanitation, it's advisable to boil all drinking water, including water used for brushing teeth. It's also advisable to avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and shellfish.
- General travel advice is available on the fitfortravel website.
For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.
View the 'Hepatitis E virus (HEV) in Scotland: evidence of recent increase in viral circulation in humans' scientific paper on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website.
View the 'Hepatitis E outbreak on cruise ship' scientific paper on the NCBI website.
Data and surveillance
View our latest hepatitis E surveillance reports: