Although hepatitis E is more common in developing countries, cases have been reported in the United States and other industrialized countries. The mortality rate associated with hepatitis E virus infection in humans is usually less than 1 percent, but that number can reach as high as 28 percent in pregnant women who have been infected.
"Interestingly, nearly all of the chronic cases were caused by a genotype of hepatitis E virus known to be zoonotic," Meng said.
In addition to humans, the zoonotic genotype of the virus has also been identified in pig, deer, rat, and rabbit. Meng and his colleagues are responsible for the discovery of swine hepatitis E virus in pigs, and avian hepatitis E virus in chickens.
Although the virus can be spread through contact with some animals or through contaminated water or food, it does not efficiently transfer from person to person.
Symptoms may include jaundice, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. The virus has a long incubation period, and those infected may not show symptoms until two weeks to two months after exposure.
What's more, Meng stressed the importance of food safety in preventing hepatitis E virus infections. In 2007, his research team found that 11 percent of pig livers sold in a grocery store in Blacksburg, Va., had hepatitis E virus contamination in them that could infect humans if served raw or undercooked.
Sporadic and cluster cases of hepatitis E virus infection involving a variety of sausage in southern France confirms that co
|Contact: Sherrie R. Whaley|