Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver due to infections, alcohol, drugs, or autoimmune diseases. There are five hepatitis viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Many people also refer to these viruses as HAV, HBV, HCV, HDV, and HEV, respectively. Hepatitis E is a widespread condition occurring in developing countries that lack clean water and adequate environmental sanitation. Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and Mexico have experienced outbreaks. It is uncommon for physicians to diagnose HEV in developed countries unless the patient has recently traveled to a developing country.
A single-stranded RNA virus -- the hepatitis E virus -- causes the condition. According to the World Health Organization, more than 20 million people experience HEV infections around the world every year. The most common source for transmission is contaminated drinking water. HEV enters the body through the intestine and exits through the stools of those infected. It generally goes away on its own within two to six weeks. Patients usually do not experience complications and mortality is low. However, some patients with hepatitis E can develop a more serious condition that causes acute liver failure (ALF), which can be fatal.
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