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Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is an emerging public health concern in high-income countries and can cause acute and chronic hepatitis. Reported numbers of indigenously acquired HEV infection have increased in the past decade in many European countries. Since 2010, the National Reference Centre (NRC) for Hepatitis Viruses has been testing samples of suspected hepatitis E cases in Belgium.


In this surveillance report, we present the epidemiological trends of symptomatic HEV infections in Belgium, from the distribution by age, sex and geography to the molecular characterisation of the viral strains.


Serum samples of suspected cases sent to the NRC between 2010 and 2017 were analysed for the presence of HEV-specific IgM and RNA. Virus was sequenced for genotyping and phylogenetic analysis in all samples containing sufficient viral RNA.


The NRC reported an increase in the number of samples from suspected cases (from 309 to 2,663 per year) and in the number of laboratory-confirmed hepatitis E cases (from 25 to 117 per year). Among 217 sequenced samples, 92.6% were genotype 3 (HEV-3), followed by 6.5% of genotype 1 and 0.9% of genotype 4. HEV-3 subtype viruses were mainly 3f, 3c and 3e. HEV-3f was the most common subtype until 2015, while HEV-3c became the most common subtype in 2016 and 2017.


The increasing trend of HEV diagnoses in Belgium may be largely explained by increased awareness and testing.


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