The hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a small RNA virus and the etiological agent for hepatitis E, a form of acute viral hepatitis. The virus has a feco-oral transmission cycle and is transmitted through environmental contamination, mainly through drinking water. Recent studies on the isolation of HEV-like viruses from animal species also suggest zoonotic transfer of the virus. The absence of small animal models of infection and efficient cell culture systems has precluded virological studies on the replication cycle and pathogenesis of HEV. A vaccine against HEV has undergone successful clinical testing and diagnostic tests are available. This review describes HEV epidemiology, clinical presentation, pathogenesis, molecular virology and the host response to HEV infection. The focus is on published literature in the past decade.