Hepatitis E

Changed on: 14.08.2018
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Hepatitis E infection in humans is a relatively rare form of liver inflammation, caused by a virus. To date, it has been believed that hepatitis E infections in humans chiefly occurred during trips in Asia and Africa. However, recent studies have found that numerous domestic and wild pigs in Europe and Japan carry the hepatitis E virus (HEV). This suggests that the HEV infection is a zoonosis in, at least, some Areas.

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Hepatitis E infection in humans is a relatively rare form of liver inflammation, caused by a virus. To date, it has been believed that hepatitis E infections in humans chiefly occurred during trips in Asia and Africa. However, recent studies have found that numerous domestic and wild pigs in Europe and Japan carry the hepatitis E virus (HEV). This suggests that the HEV infection is a zoonosis in, at least, some Areas.

More information

Transmission

Hepatitis E can be transmitted in animals and humans via contact infection via the faecal-oral or oral-faecal route or through water. The main target cells of hepatitis E viruses are hepatocytes (liver cells), the virus particles are then defecated via the gallbladder and stools and can be detected in sewage. The virus gets into surface waters through pig manure due to the washing out of areas treated with liquid manure. Other ways of spreading are “natural fertilizers” (animal excretion), the irrigation of vegetable gardens and drinking water. A perinatal transmission of the virus from sow-to-piglet is also possible.

The major sources for infections in humans are drinking water contaminated with faeces and contaminated food that has been insufficiently heated, as well as a lack of kitchen hygiene.

Symptoms

Infected individuals show non-specific symptoms: tiredness, lethargy, fever up to a maximum of 39 °C, sometimes nausea, vomiting, occasionally icterus (jaundice), unspecific abdominal pains (liver capsule). Fulminant hepatitis cases are very rare (below 1 %), but often end terminally. If the disease has healed completely there will be no lasting damage. The disease is not chronic (except in cases of immunosuppression -- e.g. HIV)

No clinical changes could be detected in pigs, to date. The highest discharge rate could be detected in piglets from 1-3 months, which does not result in the infection of the pig itself, but makes it a carrier.

 

 

Therapy

Therapy

There is no specific treatment for swine infected by HEV. The most important preventative measure in food making is to wash hands thoroughly. Given the virus’s heat-sensitivity, heating meat well seems to be the best protection from contamination through food for humans.

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