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Background and aims: Autochthonous hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is a porcine zoonosis and increasingly recognized in developed countries. In most cases the route of infection is uncertain. A previous study showed that HEV was associated geographically with pig farms and coastal areas. Aim: The aim of the present research was to study the geographical, environmental and social factors in autochthonous HEV infection. Methods: Cases of HEV genotype 3 infection and controls were identified from 2047 consecutive patients attending a rapid-access hepatology clinic. For each case/control the following were recorded: distance from home to nearest pig farm, distance from home to coast, rainfall levels during the 8 weeks before presentation, and socioeconomic status. Results: A total of 36 acute hepatitis E cases, 170 age/sex-matched controls and 53 hepatitis controls were identified. The geographical spread of hepatitis E cases was not even when compared with both control groups. Cases were more likely to live within 2000 m of the coast (odds ratio=2.32, 95% confidence interval=1.08-5.19, P=0.03). There was no regional difference in the incidence of cases and controls between west and central Cornwall. There was no difference between cases and controls in terms of distance from the nearest pig farm, socioeconomic status or rainfall during the 8 weeks before disease presentation. Conclusion: Cases of HEV infection in Cornwall are associated with coastal residence. The reason for this observation is uncertain, but might be related to recreational exposure to beach areas exposed to HEV-contaminated 'run-off' from pig farms. This hypothesis merits further study.

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Hepatitis E is endemic in many developing countries where it causes substantial morbidity. In industrialised countries, it is considered rare, and largely confined to travellers returning from endemic areas. However, there is now a growing body of evidence that challenges this notion. Autochthonous hepatitis E in developed countries is far more common than previously recognised, and might be more common than hepatitis A. Hepatitis E has a predilection for older men in whom it causes substantial morbidity and mortality. The disease has a poor prognosis in the context of pre-existing chronic liver disease, and is frequently misdiagnosed as drug-induced liver injury. The source and route of infection remain uncertain, but it might be a porcine zoonosis. Patients with unexplained hepatitis should be tested for hepatitis E, whatever their age or travel history.
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Hepatitis E virus is endemic in many parts of the developing world and causes a self-limiting hepatitis in young adults, except in pregnant women and patients with chronic liver disease, where the mortality is high. Locally acquired hepatitis E is increasingly recognized in the developed world. It is caused by hepatitis E virus genotype 3, affects the middle-aged and the elderly, and may be a zoonotic infection from pigs. We present a case of locally acquired hepatitis E infection in a patient with previously undiagnosed cirrhosis, which resulted in subacute liver failure and death. We describe our attempt to trace this infection to a free-range pig farm adjacent to the patient's place of employment. Hepatitis E infection should be considered in the differential diagnosis in patients with decompensated chronic liver disease whatever their age or travel history. When found, the prognosis may be poor.
Article
To report the natural history of autochthonous hepatitis E and hepatitis E virus (HEV) IgG seroprevalence in Southwest England. Patients with unexplained hepatitis were tested for hepatitis E and cases followed until recovery or death. Five hundred blood donors, 336 individuals over the age of 60 years and 126 patients with chronic liver disease were tested for HEV IgG. Forty cases of autochthonous hepatitis E (genotype 3) were identified. Hepatitis E was anicteric in 25% of cases and usually caused a self-limiting hepatitis predominantly in elderly Caucasian males. Six of 40 had a significant complication and three patients died, two of who had previously undiagnosed cirrhosis. Hepatitis E shows a seasonal variation with peaks in the spring and summer and no cases in November and December. HEV IgG prevalence increases with age, is more common in men and is 16% in blood donors, 13% in patients with chronic liver disease and 25% in individuals over 60 years. Autochthonous hepatitis E is more common than previously recognized, and should be considered in the differential diagnosis in patients with hepatitis, whatever their age or travel history. It carries a significant morbidity and when seen in the context of chronic liver disease carries an adverse prognosis.
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