Hepatitis E virus (HEV)

Hepatitis E is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. Some people have no symptoms or only a very mild illness, but it can be very serious for pregnant women.

People who get hepatitis E virus (HEV) in New Zealand are generally infected overseas. It is more common in India and regions of Asia, Africa and Central America. There are an estimated 20 million cases of HEV worldwide each year.

If you are concerned about hepatitis E call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.

HEV can be spread through:

  • Drinking contaminated water in countries with poor sanitation
  • Eating contaminated food (from infected animals such as pork meat and livers, venison and wild boar)
  • Transfusion of infected blood products while overseas
  • It can be passed on by pregnant women to their babies
  • Eating raw or undercooked shellfish
  • Sexual contact, although this is less common

The signs and symptoms of HEV include:

  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  • Dark urine
  • Pale faeces (poo)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tummy pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever

Some people have no symptoms or only a very mild illness. It takes between two and 10 weeks to develop the illness after being exposed to HEV. The illness usually lasts two to six weeks.

It can be a very serious illness for pregnant women. It’s recommended they seek medical care as soon as possible if they have hepatitis symptoms.

If you have symptoms you should contact your doctor and explain what they are, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.

If your doctor thinks you have hepatitis they will take a blood sample for testing. Other types of hepatitis are more common so your blood will be tested for these first.

If you test positive you will need to stay home from work, school or day care. You can return to your normal routine 14 days after you first became unwell.

People you live with or have had close contact with should watch out for symptoms for up to nine weeks after you have recovered. If they develop symptoms they should contact their doctor for medical advice.

Hepatitis E virus is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals or laboratories will inform us when someone has it. This allows us to give advice about how to stop it spreading, and check that other people who have been in close contact with the person with the illness haven’t also been infected.

Last updated 19.6.2024

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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