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Hepatitis E is a viral infection of the liver that occurs in epidemics as well as sporadically in many countries. The disease is not reported from the United States, except for rare reports among travelers. The virus is usually transmitted by contaminated drinking water. Epidemics often occur after heavy rainfall. The incubation period ranges from 2-9 weeks. Symptoms may include fever, jaundice, malaise, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The illness usually resolves without complications in 1-6 weeks. However, for unknown reasons, pregnant women who contract hepatitis E are at high risk for developing fulminant hepatitis, resulting in a 15-20% fatality rate. Hepatitis E infection can be diagnosed by measuring antibodies to hepatitis E virus in the blood. There is no treatment. Immune globulin prepared in countries where the disease is not endemic, such as the United States, does not appear to be protective. An experimental vaccine has been developed, but is not yet generally available. The best means of prevention is close adherence to food and water precautions, as outlined elsewhere.
From the World Health Organization
Hepatitis E (brief introduction)
From the Centers for Disease Control
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