Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Hepatitis E

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

Disease burden and surveillance

Vaccine topics

There are no WHO pre-qualified vaccines against Hepatitis E virus.

Programmes / Partnerships

Further information

Last updated: 19 October 2015