Hepatitis B is a very contagious virus which affects the liver and can be life-threatening. Long-lasting infection can lead to chronic liver disease and even cancer. Hepatitis B is a virus that spreads through blood and body fluids causing an infection of the liver. This disease is widespread is a risk in most countries across the globe. Approximately 350 million people are carriers worldwide.
A common misconception amongst many people is that Hepatitis B is “just a sexually transmitted disease”. Although Hepatitis B can be spread via unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person, it can be spread in many other ways too.
Symptoms of Hepatitis B can include:
- a rash
- itching all over the body
- a high temperature
- a headache
- joint pain (with possible swelling, mainly in the smaller joints of the hands and feet)
- feeling and being sick
- tummy pain
- yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- dark urine and pale, grey-coloured poo
Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for more common illnesses, such as flu or gastroenteritis.
1. How do you catch it?
Hepatitis B is spread by contact with blood or body fluids from an infected person. It can be spread through unprotected sex, tattoos, body piercings, acupuncture, contact sports or by sharing needles with drug users. It can also be spread by sharing toothbrushes or razors with someone who’s infected. Travellers are particularly at risk if they require medical treatment in a country with a high incidence of Hepatitis B and a health care system with limited resources. In these circumstances, injections might be re-used or blood transfusions may not be screened for Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B can be best prevented via administration of the Hepatitis B vaccine. There are other steps you can take to lower your risk of infection. Using a condom will lower the risk of catching Hepatitis B through sexual intercourse. Avoid anything which involves piercing the skin unless you are certain that the equipment has been sterilised properly.
3. Vaccination options
If you are travelling to a country with a risk of Hepatitis A, vaccination is recommended.
Number of doses? 3 doses.
When to do the course? In order to complete the full course in time, you need to get the first dose at least 4 weeks before you travel.
Accelerated course available if you are travelling in less than 4 weeks’ time.
Booster doses? A 4th dose is sometimes recommended and will provide lifelong protection.
Age restrictions? Vaccine is available for anyone above the age of one.
4. At risk destinations
Hepatitis B is found throughout the world, but is particularly common in:
- sub-Saharan Africa.
- east and southeast Asia.
- the Pacific Islands.
- parts of South America.
- southern parts of eastern and central Europe.
- the Middle East.
- the Indian Subcontinent
5. Our service
For a free risk assessment and expert advice, contact us today and speak with one of our dedicated healthcare professionals.