Hepatitis A and B risks in foreign countries

Many people travel to countries where the climate is warmer during the cold season. During long journeys, the risk of contracting hepatitis A and B is particularly high. A good tip: get vaccinated against these pathogens before travelling.

Vaccination against hepatitis A and B

Anyone who now wishes to travel to Asia, South America, Mexico or the Caribbean by air transport to take advantage of the sunny and warm climate at the beginning of the long-distance travel season in the fall or winter should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. This is the advice of the Professional Association of German Internists. Travellers from countries with high hygiene standards contract hepatitis A infection mainly when travelling abroad on air travel, especially for pregnant women, which is why the disease is also called travellers’ jaundice. People infected with chronic hepatitis B, i.e. possible transmitters of the virus, are widespread in many countries that have not yet introduced hepatitis B vaccination programs for babies. Both hepatitis B vaccination and combined hepatitis A vaccination require three vaccinations in order to establish lasting immune protection. The second vaccine is given 4 weeks after the first, the third after an additional 6 to 12 months. Already after the second combination of vaccines, there is a high protection against hepatitis A, for example, before air travel, risk of long-distance travel. Vaccination against hepatitis B is free of charge for young people up to the age of 18. For adults, many health insurance companies pay for the combined vaccine before going abroad.

Hepatitis A and B in the world

Approximately 75 million of the 360 million hepatitis B carriers worldwide live in Asia. Experts estimate that nearly one in ten people in Southeast Asia, including China, Indonesia and the Philippines, is a chronic carrier of hepatitis B. The number of potential carriers is also very high in parts of the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV and is transmitted through minute traces of blood, saliva or other body fluids. This is possible not only through unprotected sex, contaminated needles or blood transfusions not tested for hepatitis B, but also through tiny wounds to the skin or mucous membranes caused by objects contaminated with the smallest traces of blood, for example through messy cosmetic treatment, razors, tattoos, piercings or ear piercings. In various parts of Mexico, there has recently been an accumulation of hepatitis A called traveler’s jaundice in several countries. In most cases, the reason was contaminated drinking water due to inadequate sewage systems and insufficient treatment. The virus is transmitted through contaminated drinking water or food prepared with contaminated water (e.g. salads, ice cubes), so hepatitis is endemic. Hepatitis A infection in young children is generally harmless, often without visible symptoms. In a community or family, the highly infectious virus can then be easily transmitted, for example by sharing sanitary facilities. In adults, hepatitis A usually manifests itself as an acute illness accompanied by jaundice. In the elderly, complications are more frequent and death is also possible, especially in cases of previous liver disease. In 2009, approximately 72 U.S. vacationers contracted jaundice from travel to Mexico or Central and South America. For this reason, travel doctors recommend a preventive vaccination at the beginning of the long-distance travel season in autumn and winter for European vacationers in Mexico. All this does not prevent travel, but a prior knowledge is necessary the risk of long distance travel related to the high hepatitis A and B infection.

Travel and high risk of hepatitis A and B

Medical treatment required during long-distance and long-distance travel on an airplane, e.g. due to an injury, can therefore already represent a long-distance travel risk. Inflammation of the liver is one of the main causes of liver cancer. Approximately four out of every four cancers worldwide can be attributed to this form of cancer. Consulting a doctor is important for a pregnant woman who is afraid of flying to be reassured and to refresh her mind when travelling by plane. In addition, jetlag causes not only insomnia but also health problems such as a change of climate bringing heat and/or cold, forcing the use of medication. So to face during a trip the high risk of hepatitis A and B.

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