A study has revealed that each year 1200 blood transfusions done in England contain the hepatitis E virus.
It was discovered that an average of 3000 blood donors in the UK may be virus carriers. The screening process does not include hepatitis E.
Those exposed to contaminated blood resulted in transmission of the virus in more than 40% of cases.
The virus is not considered to be as dangerous as hepatitis B or C and normally only results in short-term infections. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that it can occasionally result in acute liver failure or death, particularly among vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women and those with existing liver disease.
The survey included screening of 225000 blood donation which had been collected in the south east of the country between October 2012 and September 2013.
The lead researcher from the Blood Borne Virus Unit at Public Health England, Professor Richard Tedder, said that although the results did not indicate a dire need for screening of hepatitis E on all blood donations, it indicated that there is a need for discussion on reducing the risks.
Professor Tedder stated that the infections resulting from transfusions indicated a small proportion of the 80000 and 100000 infections which have been estimated to have taken place in the UK during the period of the study.
He said that hepatitis E infections rarely cause acute illness, but could put immunosuppressed patients at risk of chronic liver disease and a policy should be implemented to identify patients who are regularly infected and offer them suitable antiviral treatment.
In total, the different forms of hepatitis result in the deaths of about 1.45 million annually, with about 400 million people living with the effects of a specific virus.
Hepatitis has become the top infectious disease killer and World Hepatitis Day was started during 2010 to bring awareness to the fact that no other disease has as big a gap between the level of awareness and burden.
The chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, Charles Gore, has written that the attention given to viral hepatitis is good, however, other than in Scotland, it is relatively under-resourced in Britain.
He stated that there is still a very long way to go to locate the two to three hundred thousand people who are living with a potentially fatal viral infection, but are completely unaware of it.
Image Credit: Tim Regan