Hepatitis E and pregnancy
I am wondering about the risks of hepatitis E infection. Why is the virus more lethal in pregnancy than in the normal population?Question:
The reason Hepatitis E is not discussed much in the medical or lay literature is because the disease is rare in the U.S., but it is endemic in developing countries. In these countries, maternal mortality has been high, ranging from 10 to 20 percent. Extreme poverty, coexisting medical illnesses, malnutrition and poor prenatal care are at least partially responsible for the poor maternal prognosis (Gabbe, Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies, 1996).
The only cases of hepatitis E in the U.S. have occurred in patients who traveled to countries or emigrated from countries where the disease is prevalent.
The illness may or may not cause jaundice. Death usually occurs as a result of liver damage or secondary symptoms such as dehydration or malnutrition. Due to a lowered immune status, pregnant women might be at higher risk for acquiring Hepatitis E. If the mother survives the acute stage of the disease, the fetus is not usually adversely affected. No chronic carrier state develops in either.