The number of people affected by the HEV virus has tripled between 2010 and 2015, according to Public Health England.
“The number of HEV cases tripled from 2010 to 2015… with a trend towards more severe and prolonged illness,” said scientists from Public Health England in a paper.
The deadly strain of the HEV virus has been traced back to pig farms in France, Holland, Germany, and Denmark.
The virus is most likely to target those with weaker immune systems, such as transplant patients and pregnant women.
“I call it the Brexit virus. It attacks the liver and nerves, with a peak in May,” Dr. Harry Dalton, a gastroenterologist at Exeter University, told a conference on neurological infectious diseases last week.
“It is particularly dangerous for people with suppressed immune systems such as those who have had organ transplants and possibly cancer.
“The virus seems to come from Europe,” Dalton added.
The virus used to be passed from person to person, and taking precautions as simple as observing better hygiene could prevent it.
The Food Protection Agency said the virus has spread to most pig herds, with 93 percent of livestock affected, of which 6 percent have enough of the strain to infect humans.
The Food Standards Agency issued advice about cooking pork thoroughly. We always advise that whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot throughout, the meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.
This will reduce the risk of illness from harmful foodborne bacteria and viruses like hepatitis E. The risk from acquiring hepatitis E virus (HEV) from eating thoroughly cooked pork or pork products is low.
Hepatitis E is an illness of the liver which can infect both animals and humans. Most people will clear the virus without any symptoms. Some people who have suppressed immune systems may find the infection hard to fight which in turn can cause chronic inflammation of the liver. a