Hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by various viruses. There about seven recognized viruses responsible for the infection of the liver:–hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Of these A, B, C, and E are of greatest concern to health practitioners.
Collectively all the types of hepatitis kill about 1.4 million people globally every year. However not much is known by the public about the disease and hence not much is done in the way of prevention on personal level.
Hepatitis E was discovered in the United States of America in 1990; it is fairly common in countries where environmental sanitation is poor, being essentially a water borne disease.
Epidemic outbreaks have occurred in Asia, Central America and North Africa; countries of interest include China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Burma, and Somalia.
Hepatitis E is more severe in pregnant women and can cause infection of the baby in the womb that could lead to abortion, death of the baby in the womb, and death of the new born.
1. What Causes Hepatitis E?
Hepatitis E is caused by Hepatitis E virus which is said to be very sensitive to high salt concentration. Hepatitis E affects mainly human but can also occur in animals like chimpanzees, goats, cows, sheep and rats.
The virus does not lead to chronic infection, recovery being almost always complete.
2. How Does Hepatitis E Spread?
Human beings are the main reservoir of the infection. Spread is through food and water contaminated by stool (shit) and occasionally through person to person; close contact with an infected person could aid spread through contamination of say the fingers of the other person during a hand shake
The stool gets to food and water through unwashed fingers and open defeacation.
3. When Do You Suspect You May Have Hepatitis E?
The symptoms and signs of hepatitis E include fever, weakness, loss of appetite, and yellowness of the eyes. See a doctor if you have these symptoms or if your child, spouse or friend has them, he/she should see one.
4. What Can Put You at Risk?
a. Lack of safe drinking water
b. Poor sanitation
c. Poor personal hygiene
d. Poor food hygiene
e. Age- young adults (15-40 years ) are more at risk.
f. Close contact with an infected person
g. Pregnancy: the disease is more severe in pregnant women.
h. Travelers to developing countries
i. Hot climate
5. Possible Complications of Hepatitis E.
Complication of Hepatitis E infection is death in a few cases in non-pregnant adults.
In pregnant women, the disease may be very severe in about 20 percent of cases with about 80 percent death rate.
Hepatitis E can be prevented in the following ways:
a.Food hygiene- heat food before eating, wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly.
b.Proper sanitation facilities
c.Personal hygiene-always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet.
d.Safe water (Always boil your water for drinking or drink only bottled water).
e.Be aware of the disease.
f.Cook bush meat thoroughly.