Hepatitis E Transmission
A few of the activities that can play a role in spreading hepatitis E include sharing eating utensils that are contaminated, touching contaminated surfaces and then placing your hands near or in your mouth, and eating or drinking contaminated food or water. In rare cases, hepatitis E transmission can also occur through sexual contact with an infected person or household contact with an infected person.
How Does Hepatitis E Transmission Occur?Hepatitis E (hep E) is usually spread by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person (or animal) infected with hepatitis E (even though it may look clean). The virus is shed in the feces of infected people and animals, and this type of transmission is known as fecal-oral transmission.
Some specific ways in which hepatitis E transmission occurs include:
- Eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Most outbreaks in developing countries have been associated with contaminated drinking water. Vegetables, salads, shellfish, and iced drinks are commonly implicated in outbreaks.
- Sharing eating utensils that are contaminated.
- Touching contaminated surfaces and then placing your hands near or in the mouth.
- Sexual contact with an infected person (uncommon).
- Household contact with an infected person (uncommon).
Casual contact -- as in the usual office, factory, or school setting -- does not spread the hepatitis E virus.
Hepatitis E Transmission and the Incubation PeriodWhen someone becomes infected with the hepatitis E virus, he or she will not feel sick immediately. The period between hepatitis E transmission and the beginning of hepatitis E symptoms is called the hepatitis E incubation period. It may be as short as 14 days or as long as 60 days; the average is five to six weeks.
(Click Hepatitis E Prevention to learn how to prevent becoming infected with the hepatitis E virus in the first place.)