Hepatitis E is a viral liver infection which is usually self-limiting, but may develop into fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure). Annually, there are an estimated 20 million hepatitis E infections, over 3 million acute cases of hepatitis E, and over 57,000 hepatitis E-related deaths.
Hepatitis E virus is transmitted mainly via the faecal/oral route through ingestion of contaminated drinking water. Other, less common, transmission routes have been identified including through ingestion of food products derived from infected animals and shellfish; transfusion of infected blood products; and vertical transmission in pregnancy.
Currently, there are no WHO pre-qualified vaccines against hepatitis E. In 2011, the first vaccine to prevent hepatitis E infection was registered in China.
A Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization Working Group on Hepatitis E was established in October 2013 to review the existing data on the safety, immunogenicity, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of the hepatitis E vaccine. The target date for publication of the WHO position paper on hepatitis E vaccine is early 2015.
In the absence of internationally available vaccines, WHO recommends prevention of hepatitis E infection and transmission by maintaining quality standards for public water sources and proper disposal of sanitary waste, as well as maintenance of personal hygiene practice and avoiding drinking water and/or ice of unknown purity while in areas of high endemicity.
WHO position papers
There is currently no WHO position paper for Hepatitis E. The first position paper is scheduled for release in 2015.
Disease burden and surveillance
There are no WHO pre-qualified vaccines against Hepatitis E virus.
Programmes / Partnerships
Last updated: 28 July 2014