Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The most common causes of hepatitis are viral infections, such as Hepatitis E virus (HEV). HEV is a non-enveloped spherical RNA virus that is classified as a Hepevirus.
Hepatitis E was first recognised as a distinct human disease in the 1980s. HEV usually produces mild disease but in rare cases it can prove fatal, particularly in pregnant women.
Image: CDC PHIL5605
HEV is transmitted by the faecal-oral route and is a common cause of viral hepatitis in Asia, Africa and Central America, particularly where sanitation and food hygiene is poor. HEV infections have also been increasingly recognised in North America and Europe. In the UK, hepatitis E infections are more commonly reported than hepatitis A, with many cases acquired from exposure within the UK.