Since 2010, human hepatitis E infections have increased in England and Wales. Most cases are locally acquired and caused by hepatitis E virus genotype 3 (HEV G3). HEV G3 is linked to the consumption of pork products. The increase is associated with the emergence of a new phylotype, HEV G3-group 2 (G3-2, also known as G3abcdhij). Sixty individuals with confirmed hepatitis E infection and no history of travel outside the UK were recruited: 19 were infected with HEV G3-group 1 (G3-1 or G3efg) and 41 with G3-2. Epidemiological data relating to usual shopping habits and consumption of ham and sausages were analysed together with typing data to identify any associations with HEV phylotype. Study participants who purchased ham and/or sausage from a major supermarket were more likely to have HEV G3-2 infection (Relative risks 1·85, P = 0·06, CI 0·97–3·53). The HEV G3-2 phylotype has not been detected in indigenous UK pigs and it is suggested that human infections could be the result of consumption of products made from pork originating outside the UK. This does not infer blame on the supermarket but the epidemiology of HEV is dynamic and reflects complex animal husbandry practices which need to be explored further.
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