New Hepatitis E Virus Flares Up in Korea

      June 21, 2007 09:30

      A hepatitis E virus with a new gene type has been found in Korea for the first time. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said the hepatitis E virus was found in a female patient with acute hepatitis in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province. The DNA sequence of the newly found virus is 95 percent similar to that of a hepatitis E virus discovered in Cangtian, China last year.

      KCDC official Kwon Joon-wook said the Chinese hepatitis E virus may already have caused a small epidemic of hepatitis E in Korea considering that the patient has never been to China. The patient has now recovered and been discharged.

      Waterborne hepatitis E mainly occurs in countries with poor hygienic condition like Southeast Asian nations and has rarely affected Korea. People are infected with the disease when they eat virus-contaminated water or food.

      Patients suffer similar symptoms to hepatitis A, like fever, stomachache and jaundice. They easily recover if they take sufficient rest and only 1-2 percent of them die. But the mortality rate for pregnant women with the disease is 20 percent. There is no vaccine.

      Prof. Kim Do-yeong, a doctor of internal medicine at Yonsei University Severance Hospital, said hepatitis E is preventable if people wash their hands frequently and eat sufficiently cooked food.

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