Causes of Hepatitis E

What Causes Hepatitis E to Spread?

Hepatitis E is most commonly spread by eating or drinking something (or putting something in your mouth, such as a utensil) that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis E. This type of transmission is called "fecal-oral" transmission. For this reason, the hepatitis E virus is more easily spread in areas where there are poor sanitary conditions or where good personal hygiene is not observed.
Most infections result from contamination of water supplies, such as after monsoon flooding. Unlike hepatitis A (which is also spread through the fecal-oral route), transmission of the hepatitis E virus rarely occurs through contact with a household member or sex partner who has been infected. Casual contact -- as in the usual office, factory, or school setting -- does not spread the virus.
It is possible for animals to spread the virus, since a number of types of animals are susceptible to infection. A few of these types of animals include several non-human primates, pigs, cows, sheep, goats, and rodents.
(Click Hepatitis E Transmission for more information.)

Who Is at Risk for Hepatitis E?

There are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of getting hepatitis E. These groups can include:
  • International travelers, particularly those who have traveled in Central and South-East Asia, North and West Africa, India, and Central America -- and especially in regions where fecal contamination of drinking water is common
  • People living in areas where hepatitis E outbreaks are common
  • People who live or have sex with an infected person.

Hepatitis E Information

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