Hepatitis A & B
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is spread through contaminated food and water, which causes inflammation of the liver. The World Health Organisation estimates that there are around 1.5 million new cases of Hepatitis A every year.
Hepatitis B is spread through infected blood or bodily fluids so is linked to unprotected sex, shared needes and blood transfusions. There have also been some cases related to acupuncture, tattooing and body piercing. Hepatitis B is more infectious than HIV and can lead to liver problems and even death.
Countries at risk
Hepatitis A occurs around the world but is most commonly found in areas with poor sanitation in Africa, Asian and South and Central America. Hepatitis B is found worldwide but areas where you are more likely to be exposed to it include India, Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa, many South Pacific Islands, China, South East Asia and Central and South America.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear, and can be less severe in children than it is in older people. Common symptoms include yellow skin and eyes, muscle ache, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss and abdominal pain.
When travelling make sure to only drink bottled or boiled water. Do not eat uncooked food, and eat fruit that can be peeled. Be sensible with personal hygiene such as washing your hands.
Hepatitis A and B are vaccine-preventable diseases. Travellers to areas at risk are recommended to have a one dose vaccination called Twinrix, which protects against Hepatitis A and B.
A single injection followed by a later booster injection can provide long-term protection. Ideally, travellers need to be vaccinated at least two weeks before travel. The initial injection will offer short-term protection for a single trip, while a booster will provide long-term cover and should preferably be taken within 6-12 months of the first vaccine.
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