Epidemiology and surveillance unit, Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Antonie van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9, 3721 MA, Bilthoven, The Netherlands. Electronic address: [Email]
OBJECTIVE : A case-control study was performed (2015-2017) to identify risk factors for acute hepatitis E in the Netherlands. METHODS : A questionnaire on potential sources of hepatitis E virus (HEV) exposure, health and socio-demographics was completed by 376 patients with acute hepatitis E, and 1534 controls matched for age, gender and region of residence. RESULTS : Traditional Dutch dry raw sausages of pork muscle meat, called "cervelaat", "snijworst", and "boerenmetworst" were reported by 72% of the patients, and 46% of controls (aOR 3.0; 95%CI 2.2-4.1), with a population attributable fraction (PAF) of 48%. Direct contact with pigs and working with a septic tank were strong risk factors (aOR 3.1; 95%CI 1.3-7.3 and aOR 6.9; 95%CI 1.2-40.8, respectively), with a low PAF (2% and 1%, respectively). Host risk factors were pre-existing liver disease (aOR 3.8; 95%CI 2.0-7.1), diabetes (aOR 2.1; 95%CI 1.4-3.2), immunosuppressive medication (aOR 2.5; 95%CI 1.5-4.1), and gastric acid inhibitors (aOR 2.3; 95%CI 1.7-3.1). CONCLUSIONS : Dry raw pork sausages were the major source of HEV infection among our study population. The prevalence and cause of HEV contamination in these pork muscle meat products require further investigation. Infrequently reported, yet strong risk factors were contact with pigs, or a septic tank.