Hepatitis B – Information for Travellers
Hepatitis B is far more serious viral infection that Hepatitis A. Like its less dangerous brother, Hepatitis B attacks the liver but Hep B can cause serious complications that could lead to death. While risks of contracting Hepatitis B by travellers are not high, it is a serious illness and everyone who likes to travel to different parts of the world should take precautions to avoid infection.
How is Hepatitis B Transmitted
Hepatitis B is transmitted through exchange of bodily fluids, which is pretty much the same as with any STD. You can contract Hepatitis B by having unprotected vaginal or anal as well as oral sex with an infected person. That goes for both heterosexual and homosexual contact. You can also contract it by sharing needles used for injection of drugs. Prevention is always the best key to staying illness free during one’s vacation or holiday.
I myself travel a lot but I don’t concern myself with Hepatitis B, because I do not engage in unprotected sex with strangers and I don’t do drugs other than smoking weed. Use of condoms significantly reduces chances of contracting hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Hepatitis B – Map of Prevalence
Hepatitis B is most prevalent in Southeast Asia, parts of the Middle East, the South and Western Pacific, Central South America and most of Africa. Northern and Western Europe as well as most of Eastern Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico have the lowest Hepatitis B infection rates. Canada is generally considered safe, but the map somehow shows northern parts of the country having high prevalence, so we’re gonna consider it the reason to play it safe in those areas. Otherwise Canada is safe. The detailed map of prevalence is below:
Hepatitis B Symptoms
30% of people infected with Hepatitis B experience no symptoms and the younger the age, the higher a chance of no symptoms.
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
Hepatitis B Vaccination for Travellers
Hepatitis B vaccination is given as a series of 3 injections over 6 month period. As such, it is recommended to go for the new vaccination that provides combined protection against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B and is also taken over the period of 6 months. Since you’d have to go through the same procedure anyway, it’s smarter to take this combined vaccination and it’ll give you protection against both strains of Hepatitis for the period of 20 years. You wouldn’t have to worry about getting Hepatitis A shot by itself.
You can get more information about Hepatitis A on the Hepatitis A – Information for Travellers with Map of Prevalence page, however it is much better to get a Twinrix ™ vaccination instead and gain protection against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B at the same time. Read the paragraph below for more information:
Hepatitis A and B Combined Vaccination for Travellers
New vaccination called Twinrix ™ is now available and is a recommended since it offers long lasting protection against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Twinrix ™ vaccination is taken the same way you would take Hepatitis B vaccination – over the period of 6 months. You’d get your first shot, then a month later your second and then the last one in 6 months. That’s it – you’re protected against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B for 20 years.
Keep in mind – Hepatitis A is far easier to contract. All you need to do is eat contaminated food or drink contaminated water. Hep A virus dies in high temperatures so if you cook your food, you won’t get it, but it’s still the easiest to contract Hepatitis. However Hepatitis A is not as damaging to liver and will not kill you. On the other hand, contracting Hepatitis B is not as easy. If you don’t engage in unprotected sex while you’re travelling, or if you don’t take illegal drugs that require injection into your vein, the chances of contracting Hepatitis B are low. However if you do get infected, you could get yourself cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer or complete failure of liver that could lead to death. Hepatitis B is no joke. I highly recommend getting Hepatitis A and B vaccination as described in this paragraph. It offers rather strong and reliable protection for 20 years. It’ll give you peace of mind and could save your life. Do it!