The occurrence of Hepatitis E in Australia have been confirmed by health officials after a member of a crew of a cruise ship have been diagnosed with the rare form of liver infection. Passengers on board the ship have already been told to check for signs and symptoms that include vomiting, chills and abdominal pain.
Only passengers on the ship of two Golden Princess cruises between February 8 and 15 are at any risk of infection. The cruise company have notified the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the incidence, and has sent letters to passengers who might be affected. Professor Charles Guest, Victoria's Chief Health Officer, assures passengers that they were at very low risk and were unlikely to become unwell.
The rare incidence of Hepatitis E in Australia have not infected any residents in the Victoria community either. An unusual form of hepatitis, the disease has symptoms that can include abdominal pain, loss of appetite and weight loss, nausea and vomiting, fever and chills, diarrhoea, yellow skin and eyes, dark urine and pale feces. It usually takes 15 to 60 days for symptoms to manifest after infection with the average incubation period of around 40 days, The Age reports.
Professor Guest explains that if passengers were affected, they would be experiencing symptoms from late February to mid April. The disease is found in feces and is spread similar to hepatitis A, through the fecal-oral route, with drinking or eating contaminated water or food as means of transmission. A World Health Organization study says that there is no evidence that hepatitis E is spread sexually or through blood.
Hepatitis E in Australia is very uncommon, with more occurrence in Central and South-East Asia, North and West Africa and Mexico. Over the last six years, about 10 to 30 cases have been diagnosed each year. According to the 9 News, the disease is a mild illness that produces only mild discomfort from which most people get better without treatment.